An image viewed thousands of times claims to show a drone sent by the Nigerian government shot down in southeastern Nigeria by Biafran separatists. The claim is false. AFP Fact Check found that the image is of a Turkish-made drone hit by an air defence unit of the Artsakh Defence Army in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.
"The drone Zoo brought into Biafra land has been shot to pieces, many Fulani terrorist & there (sic) cows brought to judgment, dos Chinasa Nworu, Chika Edoziem, and host of others begs Simon Ekpa & autopilot for forgiveness & also said its true they comitted lots of atrocities Simon said no,” reads the caption of a tweet published on January 17, 2023.
A screenshot of the false post, taken on January 19, 2023
The account behind the post has a history of publishing content sympathetic to a separatist group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The post, which has been viewed more than 5,000 times, shows a destroyed drone and two images of dead cows allegedly belonging to “Fulani terrorists”.
The caption suggests that Nigeria, referred to here as the “zoo,” sent an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into a region claimed by Biafran separatists and was shot down.
Concerns over violence and insecurity loom ahead of the election on February 25, 2023, when Nigerians will head to the polls to elect Muhammadu Buhari’s successor, as well as governors for the majority of the 36 states, and federal and state lawmakers.
Track record of spreading misinformation
IPOB is pushing for the independence of Nigeria’s southeast.
Calls for a separate state of Biafra remain a hot-button topic in Nigeria more than half a century after secessionist leader Chukwuemeka Ojukwu declared the independence of the country’s southeast in 1967. This was followed by a brutal 30-month civil war.
Though the breakaway state has since rejoined the rest of the country, members of IPOB and those sympathetic to its cause still refer to themselves as Biafrans.
The organisation has a history of spreading disinformation and has been the subject of various debunks by AFP Fact Check.
But the claim that the Nigerian government sent a drone into southeastern Nigeria is false.
Photo unrelated to Nigeria
In the article, Armenian authorities confirmed that their defence forces shot down a Turkish-made drone in Nagorno-Karabakh, a contested region in the Southern Caucasus.
Radio Canada International also published a photo of the same downed drone taken from a different angle on October 20, 2020.
A screenshot of the drone from Public Radio of Armenia, taken on January 20, 2023
A screenshot of the drone from Radio Canada International, taken on January 20, 2023
AFP Fact Check has debunked similar claims involving downed drones in the past.
Cattle struck by lightning
The tweet also claims that an image of dead cattle purportedly shows cows belonging to “Fulani terrorists” who were “sent to judgment”.
By conducting a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found that the image comes from a 2019 natural disaster in Ondo State in southwestern Nigeria, a region not claimed by the Biafran separatist movement.
“Some of the 36 cows killed by thunder lightning on Saturday in in Ijare, Ifedore local government area of Ondo state,” reads the caption of a photo in a Daily Trust news article, published on September 22, 2019.
A screenshot of a 2019 news article published in the Daily Trust, taken on January 20, 2023
The photo of the dead cattle is used in several news articles about the event.
According to the reports, a lightning strike killed at least 36 cattle belonging to Fulani herders. None of the Fulani herdsmen were reported dead.