A video of a jet taxiing and taking off from a narrow road in the middle of nowhere has been circulating on social media with people suggesting that the aircraft is used by criminals in Northwest Nigeria to smuggle arms and gold.
Findings, however, showed that the footage was originally filmed in Guatemala, a country that is over 10,600 kilometres away in Central America.
“It was alleged that this illegal runway exists [sic] in Zamfara, purposely for the importation of arms, exportation of gold etc. If this is true, then we are in trouble! BIG trouble. Won ti gbe wa ni handicap (we have been scammed),” a Twitter user, OCEEJAY (@OceeTweets) wrote on Monday, March 15, afternoon.
He had uploaded a 45-second long video of a small aircraft jetting through a dusty road in the middle of a forest and then taken off. Before he deleted it, the tweet was liked by at least 147 users of the microblogging platform and was shared over 130 times.
HumAngle spotted the same video in several posts on Facebook. “Fulani Gold Rush In Zamfara: In this illegal bush runway, Fulani cabal built miniature airport for themselves to support their hegemonic action plans. Arms and different military weaponry come through this runway into Fraud-Nigeria. While, hundreds of tons of gold are out of Zamfara through the terrorism infected area. I just come in Peace!” Prince Oba-Loye Adimula posted in a public group on Sunday.
The video has also been widely circulated on WhatsApp, a messaging application, with similar claims accompanying it.
An Internet search revealed that the video has been online since Feb. 2020. It was uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 8, 2020, by Dan Nord, who explained that the aircraft was a British Aerospace 125, a twinjet midsize business jet, originally designated as DH125 Jet Dragon.
The video was also uploaded here on the same platform on June 23, 2020.
According to a report published by The Drive, an automobile news platform, the business jet landed on a rough strip in Guatemala on Jan. 27, 2020, and was flown out by a Guatemalan Air Force pilot. The country’s army had found that the jet was transporting drugs and firearms in Peten, a town in northern Guatemala.
“Thе аrmу fоund 16 расkаgеѕ оf ѕuѕресtеd сосаіnе іn thе bасk оf а рiсkuр truck in Ѕаn Аndrеѕ, Реtеn. Аuthоrіtіеѕ іn Реtеn аlѕо fоund аn АК-47 іnѕіdе the vehicle,” The Drive wrote, quoting Breaking Belize News (BBN), a media organisation based in a neighbouring Central American country.
“Ѕеvеrаl rеѕіdеntѕ оf Duсkrun 3 іn Веlіzе tоld ВВN thаt ѕhоrtlу bеfоrе 11 lаѕt nіght, thеу hеаrd а lоw flуing аіrсrаft іn thеіr соmmunіtу. Тhе соmmunіtу іѕ lосаtеd ѕоmе 8 mіlеѕ аwау frоm thе Веlіzе-Guаtеmаlа bоrdеr.”
“That narco-jet was a Hawker Siddeley HS 125/Hawker 800 derivative—an aircraft known for its hardy airframe and landing gear that was designed over half a century ago to be able to access smaller improved airfields and even hardened grass airstrips, under some circumstances. Its big air brakes and slotted flaps help bring the mid-size private jet to a stop quickly,” The Drive’s author Tyler Rogoway explained.
“Still, the improvised airstrip depicted in the video, which seems more like a rough road than anything else, is a far cry from anything this plane was designed to handle. The fact that it made the landing at night is even crazier.”
Troubles With Zamfara State
Nigeria’s Zamfara State has for many years been a hotbed of criminal activities and, recently, terrorism, which have led to a loss of lives and properties as well as multiple abductions. A significant part of the violence in the state is fuelled by illegal gold mining activities and clashes between herding and farming communities.
Earlier in March, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, banned mining by non-state actors and declared the area a no-fly zone because “choppers are being used to ferry arms for bandits and also to evacuate gold and illegally smuggled out of the country.”