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Verification of viral video depicting army shooting points to Enugu, not Anambra

Taken from WhatsApp: Screenshot of the viral video 4 mins read

Claim: A viral WhatsApp video claims that soldiers are attacking residents of a community in Anambra State.

The shreds of evidence gathered point to the fact that the video was not shot in Anambra State, but somewhere in Enugu State. While both the Army and some dailies point to Agwu LGA in Enugu, no open evidence points to anywhere in Anambra State.

Full Text

It’s days before the Anambra gubernatorial elections and the headlines are already buzzing with the rumors and occurrences of violence across the state. Expecting the soaring chaos around the elections, the federal government has deployed over 34, 000 police officers to boost the security situation in the state. 

Anambra State has registered poor voter turnout in past gubernatorial elections and this has been  largely linked to insecurity and electoral violence. The southeast has also been ridden with the activities of the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). The group has been imposing a stay-at-home in the region and is frequently  reported to have clashed with the army. 

Even more, now that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, is being incarcerated by the federal government, the group has threatened to disrupt the upcoming gubernatorial elections and deter people from voting if Mr Kanu is not released.  

It is amidst this reality that a viral video surfaced, depicting some men, outfitted in Army uniform sporadically shooting and setting some buildings ablaze in an environment the attached narrative claims to be a village in Anambra State. 

The 23 seconds footage was widely shared on WhatsApp, arousing mostly fear amongst users who have come across it. “The government should just postpone this Anambra Elections. People will just die for nothing.” Insinuated a user on one WhatsApp group. 

Yet it didn’t stop there, the same video reappeared on Twitter, this time with a slightly different caption: “Nigerian soldiers shooting and burning villages”. It garnered over 180,000 views close to 2000 retweets and close to 3000 reactions. 

While many users who commented on the post inquired where the video actually took place, the user, Knightsnkardinals (@ThisisKandK) offered no explanations. 

Taken from Twitter 

Already, there is a lingering fear among voters in Anambra, and a good number of the comments on the  video points to that. An apparent theme from the comments inclines the potential of the video to  not only dissuade people from going out to vote, but also to anticipate violence on the election day. 

Verifying the video 

An analysis carried out on the video showed it was not doctored nor altered. The video frame of the footage suggests it was covered using a mobile phone. Though we could not trace where it first appeared or who shared it first. Analysis of the keyframes on InVid video verifier showed the video appeared recently online. 

Where did the incident actually take place? 

Open source tools used to pinpoint the actual location yielded no detailed results. Since the location was apparently a village, there were no major landmarks to determine the location. However, other reports made by major Nigerian dailies, such as Punch Newspaper, Thisday, and the Sahara reporters alleged that soldiers of the Nigerian Army had on Monday, November 1st,  invaded Isingwu, a hamlet in Imama Village, Mgbowo in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. While none of the reports mentioned Anambra State. 

Who are the men shooting, and what is the army saying? 

Dubawa reached out to Major Abubakar Abdullahi, the acting Deputy Director Public Relations of the 82 Division Nigerian Army, via a text message and followed up with phone calls to clarify the claim that the video was shot in Anambra State, but no response from him was registered. 

However, in a press release made by the Nigerian army on Facebook, they alleged that  soldiers  had earlier carried out a raid in Mgbowo, Awgu Local Government Area that same day, 1st November.  

“Troops of Joint Security Team have raided a suspected Indigenous People of Biafra/Eastern Security Network (IPOB/ESN) hideout located in Mgbowo, Awgu Local Government Area on 1 November 2021. During the night operation, two ring leaders of IPOB/ ESN were arrested. The suspects are currently undergoing interrogation by a security agency.

In the statement, the army neither denied nor accepted that the men outfitted in the Nigerian military uniform are soldiers. 

Image of some alleged soldiers involved in the shooting (from the video)

“It should be noted that, contrary to IPOB/ESN propaganda video, there was no incident of indiscriminate firing or unprovoked burning of houses during the raid. The joint operation in Agwu was conducted in the night and there was no destruction of any private property involved.” And the second paragraph reads: 

“Investigation into the video is ongoing to ascertain when and where it was shot and those involved. Any personnel found culpable would be sanctioned accordingly. Updates will be communicated when the investigation is completed,” adding that any act of unprofessional conduct among  troops will not be tolerated.

Was the video shot in Anambra or Enugu

While there is no sufficient evidence to prove where it actually happened, the claim that it has  taken place in Anambra is baseless. The claimant did not mention where in Anambra state or even when. While different sources suggest that there was an army raid in Mgbowo, Agwu LGA, Enugu State, there is no single claim from open sources that backs the occurrence of the shooting in the footage in Anambra. 

Solomon Ifeanyi, a resident of Akwa, Anambra State, said via a phone call that “we heard that the army had clashed with IPOB members in Enugu,  Tuesday morning (November 2nd) but I don’t think it was anywhere in Anambra.”

Conclusion

There is insufficient evidence to back up the claim that the incident in the video happened in  Anambra state. However,  evidence gathered suggests the event took place in Enugu, though we could not ascertain where exactly in Enugu. 

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