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Factcheck: 10 Photos Used to Depict Obigbo Victims Are From Osun, Lagos, Others

Claim: A Facebook group shared 10 photographs, which it said were about the killing and brutalising of civilians in Obigbo, a community in Rivers State.

Verdict: False. The claim is not true as the pictures have been traced to incidents in other states as well as in a different country.

Full text

Biafra Today, a group on Facebook that is “all about Biafra and latest news,” shared 10 pictures on Sunday, November 1, which it said were about extrajudicial killings in Obigbo (Oyigbo), a town in Rivers State.

“Nigerian Military unleashing terror on innocent Obigbo civilians under the guise of fishing out IPOB [Indigenous People of Biafra] family members on the orders of #govwikethemurderer,” it captioned the post. 

“According to a report, hundreds have been killed and their bodies taken away as residents flee their homes while the media is silent on this massacre. We will never forget!!”

The post was shared 835 times, liked by 283 Facebook users, and had 130 comments as of 1 pm on Friday.

A study of the comments revealed that the vast majority of those who engaged with the post believed the pictures to be genuine. “Please send more proof, the UN [United Nations] must see this,” Lord Federal wrote, while another person criticised mainstream news outlets for being purveyors of fake news.

Screenshot of misleading post taken on November 27, 2020
Screenshot of misleading post taken on November 27, 2020

Soldiers had in October invaded the Obigbo community to, according to the authorities, recover stolen weapons and capture criminals who killed six officials of the Nigerian Army. Their involvement has, however, been found to have led to the extrajudicial killing of unarmed residents.

Verification

HumAngle ran reverse image searches on all 10 pictures and discovered that none of them was shot during the tragic event in Obigbo.

The first picture, according to reverse image search results on TinEye, first appeared online when it was uploaded by Darak Online as far back as August 16, 2011. According to Getty Images, a supplier of stock images, the picture was taken by AFP photographer, Sia Kambou. It shows a soldier of the Republican Forces in Cote d’Ivoire (FRCI) “as he entered a house on April 27, 2011, in Abidjan during an attack against a militia group that helped drive former President Laurent Gbagbo from power”. 

“The Republican Forces moved into Abidjan’s northern Abobo district in an offensive to dislodge fighters of former coup-plotter Ibarhim Coulibaly, who claims to command a 5,000-strong force. Ivory Coast’s new President Alassane Ouattara has urged armed groups to lay down weapons or be disarmed by force, as his government, which took power after strongman Gbagbo’s April 11 arrest, exerts authority in the crisis-hit country,” the platform further explained.

The same photo has, however, been used in relation to the Obigbo attack by other social media accounts, such as in this tweet by Oliver Ugochi, which has been shared over 500 times. 

The second picture appeared originally on the Internet on January 21, 2017, according to TinEye. Punch Newspaper, in a report published on the same day, said the picture was taken after a pro-Donald Trump rally by IPOB members in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, turned violent.

The third, fourth, fifth, and ninth pictures were traced to the apprehension of people who allegedly looted shopping malls in Osun State on October 17. The arrests took place on October 25, with as many as 19 pictures circulating online. But then, the same set of four pictures was tweeted on November 1 by a handle called Biafra News, with the caption: “This is Obigbo, sporadic shooting, massive arrest, presently ongoing.”

Pictures six and seven have not been published on the Internet for a long period. But while the former picture has been used in connection with the attacks in Obigbo since November 1, earlier posts like this one from October 27 stated that the picture was taken in Ilesha, Osun State.

The seventh picture, according to an October 28 publication of Eons Intelligence, also shows officers of the Nigerian Air Force brutalising curfew defaulters in Ilesa. Later posts on social media, however, changed the context to fit into the Obigbo incident.

A reverse image search revealed that the ninth picture shows people arrested and paraded in Lagos on the allegation that they rioted and stole during and following the End SARS demonstrations. The picture was released after the police command said it has arrested 520 suspected hoodlums.

Finally, the tenth picture first appeared online on October 27. One of the first people to share it alongside other pictures was Uncle Anass on Twitter. “In Kaduna, it’s house to house operation in search of stolen palliatives by security operatives. Haba @elrufai,” he wrote in the caption, implying that the people seen lying on the ground were being probed by military personnel.

The picture was then published on this blog the same day.

Conclusion

None of the pictures was taken in Obigbo, Rivers State, during the raid by officials of the Nigerian military. Rather, they originated from other incidents in Port Harcourt, Osun, Lagos, Kaduna states, as well as Ivory Coast.


The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with HumAngle to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means without proper attribution to HumAngle, generally including the author's name, a link to the publication and a line of acknowledgement.

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