Claim: A social media user claimed bandits are using drones to perfect operations as they continue their heinous attack in the northern part of the country.
Verdict: False and misleading. The picture shared by the Facebook user is not from Nigeria but Burkina Faso, and it dates back to April 2021. Similarly, the gadgets in the photo belonged to journalists killed in Pama Reserve in Burkina Faso, not drones by bandits in Nigeria.
A Facebook user, Radhiyyat Taiye, in a post on Sunday, September 26, 2021, shared a picture of some gadgets, including phones, a pouch, a power bank, and others.
Referring to the picture, the social media user claimed that bandits are now using drones as they continue to wreak havoc on vulnerable communities in the northern part of Nigeria.
The photo post amassed 53 likes and 23 comments, with many reactions aligning with the poster’s position.
“The bandits have and use drones. Alhamdulillah (praised be to God) for the successes of our security forces. So far, so good,” she authoritatively claimed.
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Rodhiyyat’s post came amid ongoing military operations against bandits, Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, and perpetrators of other sundry crimes in northwest and northeast Nigeria.
Banditry in Nigeria
A code name for organised crimes like kidnapping, cattle rustling, mass abduction, arson, and armed robbery, banditry is one of the biggest nightmares in northwest Nigeria, which began to expand as non-state political actors try to jeopardize the communal peace and take control of vulnerable communities.
Current conflict situations in Nigeria showed that what is termed banditry has been in existence over the last 20 years. This is clearly manifested as a result of acute leadership failure, a break in the political chain of trust, and irresponsibility of government in safeguarding borders, protecting and providing for its citizens.
Before metamorphosing from farmer-herder crisis into what appears to be terrorism-- banditry was treated as a local affair as past governments in states like Zamfara negotiated with aggrieved youths who are carrying guns against the unarmed civilians.
Although largely unconnected with the Boko Haram carnage, bandits have shown higher resilience in their operation climaxed by the shooting of a military fighter jet.
According to ACAPS, a non-profit, non-governmental project providing international, independent humanitarian analysis, between March 2020–June 2021, over 1,400 students and staff have been kidnapped in several school abductions reported in northwest Nigeria.
These abductions took place in Kankara and Mahuta (Katsina state), Kagara and Tegina (Niger state), Jangebe and Maradun (Zamfara state), Mando, Afaka, and Kasarami (Kaduna state), and Birnin Yauri (Kebbi state).
In its report, the American Security Project Report (2021) stated that over 200,000 people had fled their communities in northern Nigeria this year, while 77,000 of them crossed the border in search of safer abodes outside the country.
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In his article titled “Banditry: Residents of North-west states reluctantly embrace stringent measures as governors unite,” a security expert and public affairs analyst, Mohammed Babangida, stated that the activities of bandits have reawakened a new strategy by the government in the fight against the evil perpetrators.
This followed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)’s directives for the immediate shutdown of telecommunication networks in Zamfara state.
Many Nigerians, including the Nigerian Senate, have called on the government to classify bandits as terrorists due to their constant attacks.
Using Yandex, a reverse image search, Legit.ng found that the picture first appeared on the internet specifically on April 27, 2021 — not in Nigeria but Burkina Faso.
In a tweet written in French which was posted by Wassim Nasr, a famous analyst and journalist with FRANCE24, the tweep, Nasir, uploaded the picture and stated that “the material” in the photo belonged to 3 journalists (1 Irish and 2 Spanish) “killed on the N18 near the reserve of #Pama” in Burkina Faso.
The translation of the tweet from French to English reads:
“#BurkinaFaso the material of the 3 (2 #Espagne 1 #Irlande ) journalists killed on the N18 near the reserve of #Pama . Photos of the 3 remains, including one of one of the two Spanish nationals, is clearly identifiable.” The journalist wrote in a tweet that has 45 retweets and 57 likes.
A further search by Dubawa showed that another Twitter handle, Atlas Times, also shared the same picture posted on April 27, confirming that the journalists might have been killed.
“#Alert: Flag of Burkina FasoFlag of SpainFlag of Ireland 4 journalists (2 Spanish, 1 Irish and 1 a Burkinabe) were kidnapped by an armed group in south eastern Flag of Burkina Faso while travelling to a natural reserve. Sources indicate that they maybe killed.#BurkinaFaso #Spain #Ireland.”
Using the same picture, further findings through Yandex and Google led to a publication with the headline, “Two Spanish journalists who filmed a documentary on poaching murdered in Burkina Faso” published by La Razón, a Spanish daily newspaper.
Corroborating the position contained in Wassim’s tweet, the Madrid-based news outlet identified the murdered Spanish journalists as David Beriáin and Roberto Fraile.
It reported that they were killed “after being assaulted by an armed group while working on a documentary about poaching on the Burkina Faso border with Benin.”
The dare-devil journalists were kidnapped some days before they were gruesomely executed while traveling through a "dangerous area because it is a field of operations.”
“An Irish journalist also lost his life in the ambush and three other people were injured; a Burkinabe citizen is still missing. No armed group has yet claimed responsibility for the crime, but the modus operandi points to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS),” part of the report also read.
UNESCO says murdered journalists deserved protection
In a statement issued by its director-general Audrey Azoulay, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) described the murder as condemnable.
The global agency’s boss said the murdered journalist deserved protection.
“I condemn the murders of Spanish journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile as well as that of Irish anti-poaching activist Rory Young. Journalists must be able to carry out their work collecting and sharing information, an essential public good. They deserve protection, like rangers and environmental workers who safeguard other common goods, biodiversity and the natural environment.” part of the statement read.
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The picture, though not too old, was used in a misleading context. The incident behind the image happened in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa. And contrary to the claim, the materials in the picture belonged to murdered documentary journalists, not drones used by bandits.