Kidnapping

  • ‘Lace for Male, Ankara for Female’, viral ‘security’ message not from LASTMA

    Claim: A viral WhatsApp message claims that the LASTMA has advised users of public transports to beware of drivers mentioning lace and ankara during a phone call.

    Dubawa’s findings show that the message has been in circulation since 2019 and did not originate from LASTMA as confirmed by its Public Relations Officer.

    Full Text

    Overtime, terms like ‘Incessant killings’, ‘kidnapping’, ‘Gunmen’, etc have become prominent in the Nigerian media space and this is owing to the increasing rate of Insecurity across the country. Accompanying these trends is the influx of false claims around the topics, many of which Dubawa has fact-checked. (See here.)

    This became a trigger for verification when a recent WhatsApp message with the indication ‘Forwarded many times’ claims that the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has warned the public to look out for suspicious phone calls by drivers when using the public transportation systems.

    The viral message purports that kidnappers have adopted the words ‘Lace and Ankara’ and translated them to mean ‘male and female’ respectively, hence, when a driver mentions any of these words, passengers should ‘quietly alight immediately.’ How do you quietly alight from a moving vehicle? 

    The last few words from the message advise readers to share the information further and identify the announcer of the message to be the LASTMA protectorate unit. Is there such unit in the agency? 

    Verification

    In the bid to check this claim, Dubawa’s first point of contact was the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) which allegedly initiated the Broadcast Message. In response to enquiry by DUBAWA, LASTMA’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Olumide FILADE, said the message did not originate from LASTMA, adding that there is no ‘protectorate unit’ in the agency.

    Further, Dubawa performed a keyword search which led to other sources of this information. Results show that asides WhatsApp, this message has been shared several times on Facebook; the earliest result was from 2019. The post has garnered over 2000 interactions across the social media platform.

    However, while the results provided by CrowdTangle show this message, none of them attributed it to the LASTMA.

    A screenshot of the results from the keyword search conducted on CrowdTangle.

    Conclusion

    While many may see this post as providing important security information, it proves baseless as there’s no sufficient evidence to back its claims. Besides this, the information is not new; it has been in circulation since 2019 and findings have shown that it has falsely attributed its claims to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority. 

  • No school children kidnapped in Ondo bus hijack as claimed by Shehu Sani

    Claim: Shehu Sani, a Nigerian politician, tweeted that some students were kidnapped in Ondo State.

    Available evidence on Sani’s claim is false and misleading. No school children were kidnapped in the hijacked bus in Ondo.

    Full text

    Shehu Sani, a former senator from Kaduna state in Nigeria, tweeted on Thursday that some students were kidnapped in Ondo State.

    “The report of the abduction of schoolchildren in Ondo is another tragic news. The kidnapping of students has become a pandemic.”

    Recently, there have been incessant cases of kidnaps across the country, including those of school pupils fueling agitation across the country. 

    Expectedly, Sani’s tweet gained momentum quickly on the micro-blogging social network, Twitter, with some of his followers spreading the information at a rapid rate. 

    The tweet, which has the tendency of reaching the 1.9 million people who follow the senator, started gaining engagement barely one hour after it was posted. It already has 164 retweets and 742 likes as of 9:22 p.m. on Thursday.

    Some of the comments under the posts were in affirmation of the senators’ tweet. 

    One of those who tweeted was Emmanuel Nweze (@EmmanuelNweze10) who wrote, “@ShehuSani, Kidnapping of children in Nigeria has become a very big business of Fulani terrorists in the land so is no more a news beau’s Government of Nigeria is Supporting them by paying them money” 

    Another commentator under the post, Chegwe Ezenwa (@ChegweEzenwa), wrote, “@ShehuSani, This is the kind of pain that parents are being subjected to on a daily. How could people be so inhumane as to make families feel such pains and apprehension? It’s a cold world Earth globe americas.”

    Recent kidnappings of schoolchildren across the country

    On Sunday, May 30 2021, over 100 students of Islamiyya School at Tegina in Rafi Local Government Area, Niger State were abducted.

    Also, on March 13, 2021, Thirty-nine students of the College of Forestry Mechanisation in Kaduna were similarly held hostage by bandits, according to an earlier report by The Punch. 

    On 20 April, 2021, at least 20 students and two staff members were kidnapped in Greenfield University, Kasarami, Chikun LGA, Kaduna State. Between April 23 and 26, five of the students were killed.

    Earlier on Friday,  February 26 2021, more than 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from their boarding school in Jangebe, Zamfara State.

    On February, 17,2021, at least 42 people, including 27 students, were kidnapped in Kagara, Niger state, a report by The Nation Newspaper stated. 

    In 2014, 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok by Islamist militants Boko Haram brought global attention to the scourge of raids on schools in Nigeria but the most recent attacks are suspected to be the work of criminal gangs.

    The Ondo abduction

    According to several news reports, a staff member of a Chiomola private school, Omolayo Ojo, was abducted by some gunmen in Ondo State on Thursday morning. 

    The staff member of the school, which is located at Oba Ile Estate, Akure North LGA of Ondo State, was whisked away after gunmen hijacked a bus belonging to the school. 

    The incident occurred in the morning around 7am, while the driver and the abducted staff were moving around town to pick up pupils of Chiomola school.

    Verification

    Several reports including the one by Punch reported that  only a staff member of Chiomola private school, Omolayo Ojo, was abducted by the gunmen.

    Speaking to journalists, as replicated by Sahara reporters,  Ojo said the gunmen threatened to harm her if she did not cooperate with them. She added that she was taken to an unknown destination but later found her way back to Akure after asking for directions from people she met on her way.

    In an interview, the Principal of the school, Mrs Bolatito Akindemowo, confirmed that no pupil was abducted during the incident, adding that security operatives had been briefed of the incident.

    “This has never happened to our school before. However, the staff that was kidnapped has been released but we are yet to find the school bus. We have reported the incident to the police,” the principal stated.

    To further verify this claim by Senator Shehu Sani, Dubawa correspondent reached out  to the Ondo State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Tee-Leo Ikoro, in a phone interview. He stated that there was no abduction in the state. He added that there was only a case of vehicle snatching. 

     “There was no case of abduction. It was just a case of vehicle snatching by some of our hoodlums. They didn’t even abduct the lady. 

    “It was not a case of abduction not to talk of going away with school children. People are just spreading false information all over the place. Immediately the incident happened there was panic in the atmosphere and you know that once there is panic, people will begin to say all sorts of things they are not sure of,” he added.

    Conclusion

    Based on the evidence available and credible news reports, Senator Sani’s tweet is false and misleading.

    The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Punch to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

  • Viral video of soldiers flogging suspected bandits filmed in Zamfara, not along the Ife-Ibadan road

    Claim: a viral video making rounds on social media claims that soldiers have arrested and flogged ‘Fulani herdsmen kidnappers’ along the Ife-Ibadan road. 

    The claim

    The claim that soldiers have arrested and flogged ‘Fulani herdsmen kidnappers’ along the Ife-Ibadan road is misleading. The event actually took place back in 2019 and happened at Shinkafi local government area of Zamfara State and not along the Ife-Ibadan road.  

    Full text

    Insecurity in Nigeria has become a major discourse in both the public sphere and media circle. Since 2009, security has not only taken a considerable part of the nation’s financial budget but has also taken a chunk of newspaper headlines. This reality has, however, placed security matters in the spotlight, alluring massive traction anytime anything related to security is shared. A good example is a video circulating on social media which claims that soldiers have arrested ‘Fulani herdsmen kidnappers’ along the Ife-Ibadan road. Not only that, the video depicted men in Nigerian military gear engrossed with the flogging of some shirtless persons whom the video alleged to be suspected Fulani herdsmen kidnappers arrested by soldiers of the Nigerian army. 

    The video is collaged alongside a narrative that states, “Fulani herdsmen arrested by soldiers along Ife-Ibadan road. The soldiers posed as passengers in a commercial vehicle from where they caught them in their operation. They left their cattle in the bush. Nemesis will still catch up with many more of them. ” 

    The claim has appeared on YouTube, January, 21st 2021, and attracted more than 1000 views; with comments that neither showed doubts nor skepticism towards the story the video has depicted. 

    The YouTube version of The collage video with the narrative written on the blue background

    The video has also been forwarded multiple times on WhatsApp across different groups and forums and though it did not offer a specific time period as to when the event actually took place, its recent appearance on the social media space appears to pose it as a fresh occurrence. 

    The WhatsApp version of The collage video with the narrative written on the blue background

    The sensitivity of security matters and information has been a considerable causal factor of unrest in society, especially when it is presented in a visual format, such as the claim at hand.  Even more, the claim may also have lethal implications, considering the ongoing debate regarding the presence of herdsmen in the southern part of Nigeria and the recent reports of herdsmen attacks in Osun. Summatively, this may end up crumbling the fragile security structure of those areas. Sequel to this circumstance, DUBAWA opted to establish the fact about this claim, especially to determine when and where it actually took place. 

    Verification 

    Before anything else, DUBAWA traced another version of the video with a slightly different narrative that was shared on YouTube on 26th June 2019. The chronicle attached to this version outlines: “Little can be said about the menace caused by  herdsmen in the country for a while in the country. These herdsmen were cautioned by officers of The Nigerian Armed Forces for grazing on farmlands. What’s your take on this?  Yay or nah”. 

    While the other narrative professes that the acclaimed herdsmen were captured by the soldiers for kidnapping and gave the story a flair of recency, the other one suggests it was because of grazing on the farmland back in 2019.  This apparent contradiction even raises questions around the actual time the incident took place.

    Another version of the video YouTube with a slightly different narrative uploaded on 26th June 2019

    Nonetheless, DUBAWA uncovered that the incident actually happened in 2019.  However, the major distinction is that it happened in Shinkafi Local Government Area (LGA) in Zamfara State and not along the Ife-Ibadan road as the claim purported. 

    Interestingly, it turned out that the  Nigerian Air Force spokesman, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, had condemned the action back in 2019 in a statement he released to the press. He clearly stated that “The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been drawn to a video and some pictures circulating on some social media and online platforms showing some military personnel flogging suspected armed bandits at Shinkafi Local Government Area (LGA) in Zamfara State. The NAF has discovered that some of its personnel were part of the joint team stationed at the Galadi Sub-Sector at the time. The NAF wishes to state unequivocally that the troops’ actions of flogging and physically assaulting the disarmed suspects were totally unacceptable and not in consonance with the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) guiding the conduct of the operation.” 

    The statement of the NAF spokesperson was also widely reported on major media outlets. 

    Further shreds of evidence from the acclaimed video also confirm the incident happened somewhere in the northwest because, at 1:59 timing of the video one of the soldiers said “we are not only SHARAN DAJI we are operation 777, regardless.” The operation SHARAN DAJI or 777 is a unit of the Nigerian army that was set up in 2015 to respond to the crises of banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping in the northwestern part of Nigeria with a primary focus on Zamfara. 

    Tolu Ogunlesi, the Special Assistant to President Buhari on Digital and New Media, had in 2019, around the time of the incident confirmed that the SHARAN DAJI is primarily stationed in the northwest.  This implies that the incident did not happen along the Ife-Ibadan road as claimed,  because the particular army unit is not functional and stationed there.  

    Tolu’s Twitter post on OPERATION SHARAN DAJI

    Conclusion 

    Although the acclaimed incident actually took place, the real narrative regarding where and when it took place was slanted to forge a rather misleading story around the video. Thus this claim is misleading because the event happened in   Shinkafi, Zamfara State, and not along the Ife-Ibadan road. 

  • Fact-checking viral claim Assistant Commissioner of Police was arrested for kidnapping

    CLAIM: a Twitter user (@SDiaso) shared a picture claiming that an Assistant Commissioner of Police was arrested for kidnapping.

    The claim that an Assistant Commissioner of Police was arrested for kidnapping is FALSE, as the suspect in the picture was a fake Assistant Commissioner of Police who was arrested by the Nigeria Police in Akwa Ibom State for impersonation in January 2019.

    FULL TEXT

    On March 12, 2021, a Twitter user, Soludo Diaso (@SDiaso) shared a post with a picture purported to be an Assistant Commissioner of Police arrested for kidnapping. It had the caption “Assistant Commissioner of @Police NG arrested for kidnapping in Nigeria.”

    Screenshot of the tweet from @SDiaso

    As at Tuesday March 16, 2021, the Twitter post had generated 4,954 Retweets, 758 Quote Tweets and 6,520 Likes.

    VERIFICATION

    To verify this photo, Dubawa initiated a Google reverse image search. Results from the search indicate that the picture had been on the internet since 2019. A report from the results identified the man in the picture as Kinglsey Udoyen, who was arrested by the police in Akwa Ibom State in January 2019, for impersonation.

    Mr. Udoyen was arrested by the police for defrauding members of the public by pretending to be an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom State. He was paraded before journalists at the Akwa Ibom State Police Headquarters in Uyo, by the then Commissioner of Police, Musa Kimo.

    Mr. Kimo said Mr Udoyen, who resides at House 3, Stadium Road, Abak, was arrested on January 2, 2019, for “using the fake police rank to threaten and defraud unsuspecting members of the public.

    “A search in his house led to the recovery of one English pistol without magazine and ammunition, portraits of chief superintendent of police and assistant commissioner of police, three pairs of uniform, police belt, fake police ID card, and other documents,” the police commissioner said.

    According to a press statement by Frank Mba, the Force Public Relations Officer, the suspect, Kingsley Udoyen, “is a fake Police Officer and not a serving Assistant Commissioner of Police.” “The suspect is an impersonator who was posing as an Assistant Commissioner of Police to defraud and threaten unsuspecting members of the public before he ran out of luck and was subsequently arrested. He has since been arraigned in a competent court of law and he is currently undergoing criminal prosecution at the Magistrate Court, Abak, Akwa Ibom State,” the police spokesperson said.

    CONCLUSION

    The Twitter post with the picture claiming that a Nigerian Assistant Commissioner of Police had been arrested by the police for kidnapping is false and misleading. As findings have shown, the man in the picture is an impersonator who was arrested and not a police officer involved in kidnappings in Nigeria.

    Uchenna Igwe is a campus reporter with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), with interests in health, climate, research and data journalism.

  • No Evidence Buhari Visited Kankara Days After Students’ Kidnapping

    Claim: Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, visited Kankara, a town in Katsina State where hundreds of secondary school students were kidnapped, two days after the incident.  

    There is no evidence backing this claim nor can it be traced to any credible media or government source.

    Full text

    On Sunday evening, one Akinsola Akinboye, shared a tweet where he claimed that Muhammadu Buhari had just visited Kankara to offer his condolences over the abduction of students that took place in the town between Friday and Saturday.

    “PMB has just arrived in Kankara town to commiserate with the parents, school management, and the entire people of Kankara over the abduction of over 333 students of GSSS Kankara by Gunmen,” he wrote. “Flashback to Chibok, the then govt refused to even admit. PMB must do more on Security.”

    PMB is an acronym famously used to refer to President Muhammadu Buhari since his first election into office in 2015. Before then, he was often called GMB (General Muhammadu Buhari), acknowledging his military background.

    Akinboye (@cbngov_akin1), a prominent Twitter user, has over 81,400 followers. He describes himself as a social media strategist and member of the Presidential Campaign Team of the All Progressives Congress.

    In the tweet, he attached two pictures. On the left is a Nigerian Air Force helicopter parked in front of a crowd of people. On the left is a screenshot of a news report by Associated Press where it noted that the government under former President Goodluck Jonathan “refused international help to search for more than 300 girls abducted” in Chibok.

    Akinboye’s tweet was liked by 254 Twitter users and shared over 120 times as of 7 am on Monday.

    Responses to the post showed that it was believed by many people who engaged with it. 

    “After public outcry, shame and more shame for comparing one bad situation with another. We shouldn’t play politics with security please, people just want to be safe,” wrote Ogele Chibuzor Toju.

    “Good, and we hope to see some actions and change possibly tonight,” replied another user, Ahmad M. Salihu.

    A similar tweet was shared on Sunday by another Twitter account, Valiant Samson Idowu-Alaba (@ValiantNig), who also attached the picture of the NAF chopper.

    “BOOM: Immediately Buhari lands in Kankara, a Katsina town where schoolchildren had gone missing since Friday night, the news is that all the missing children have now been rescued by the joint military and Police efforts and the Defence Minister has said all will return home tonight,” Idowu-Alaba wrote in the caption.

    He added: “That’s my kind of President, not one who first denied it in 2014 before rebuffing international rescue assistance!” 

    At about 11 pm on Friday, armed men had raided the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State, and abducted hundreds of students. Over 300 schoolkids remain unaccounted for as of Sunday, according to the state governor, Aminu Masari.

    There have been calls for Buhari to visit the location of the abduction to personally sympathise with and reassure the victims’ parents, especially because the president is in his hometown, Daura, in the same state on a week-long private visit.

    Verification

    Reverse image searches conducted by HumAngle revealed that the picture of the NAF helicopter shared by Akinboye had not appeared on the Internet before Sunday and was likely shot recently.

    There is nonetheless no indication Buhari was conveyed in the chopper or that the picture was taken in Kankara.

    No local or international media organisation has reported that Buhari visited the community since the abduction took place. 

    Rather, a Federal Government delegation led by National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, was in the town on Sunday morning. 

    From pictures of their arrival shared by Television Continental (TVC), the delegates were conveyed in one of the presidential jets.

    According to Punch Newspaper, however, the delegation of service chiefs from Abuja was led by Minister of Defence, Salihi Magashi.

    Other officials in the group were the Chief of Defence Staff, Abayomi Olonisakin; Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar; and Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Abubakar.

    Similarly, there is no information confirming Buhari’s visit to the town from any presidential aide or government official as at 8 am on Monday,  December 14 more than  12 hours after the claim was made.

     Accounts checked by HumAngle for updates included those of the president, statehouse, as well as presidential spokespersons Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina, Bashir Ahmad, Tolu Ogunlesi, and Lauretta Onochie

    Conclusion

    There is no evidence or information from a reliable source substantiating the claim that Buhari visited the Katsina community on Sunday.

     It is also not true that all the school kids have been rescued. Parents of the victims still camped at the secondary school on Sunday, are anxious for their children to be returned to them.

    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.

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