Nigeria’s former presidential candidate Tope Fasua shared a Facebook post with footage of a law enforcement officer bravely disarming a gunman, whom Fasua claimed had taken part in an attack on worshippers from a Catholic church in Nigeria’s southwestern Ondo state. But the claim is false; AFP Fact Check found the dramatic clip was filmed in Togo’s capital Lome when an assailant appeared ready to open fire on a crowd with a policeman’s rifle.
Gunmen using explosives killed at least 21 people, including children, in an attack on a Catholic church in southwest Nigeria on June 5, 2022.
Shortly after the attack at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo town during a service, Fasua published a clip commending a policeman who purportedly helped subdue a gunman and relieved him of his rifle.
“Brave policeman caught up with one of them,” reads Fasua’s Facebook post. “He looks like a foreigner”. Fasua contested Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election under the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) but lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on June 7, 2022
Some social media users believed his post while others dismissed it.
The same 30-second video also circulated on Twitter where it was explicitly attributed to the gun attack in Owo, although this version of the claim alleged more than 50 people had died.
“#OwoAttack Video One of the Owo terrorists disabled by a brave policeman moments after the attack at the Catholic church during service in Ondo,” reads the tweet. The accompanying footage has been viewed more than 200,000 times.
Screenshot of the false tweet, taken on June 7, 2022
While gunmen hid among worshippers inside the church and also opened fire on the congregation through the windows from the outside, the video in question is unrelated to the attack.
AFP Fact Check conducted reverse image searches on keyframes of the clip and found several social media posts featuring the clip, including a longer version uploaded to YouTube by Togolese news outlet TogoVisions on June 3, 2022. Meanwhile, a similar clip of the same scene was published the previous day by Le Petit Journal Togolais.
The majority of the posts link the video to a knife attack in a Lome market in Togo on June 2, 2022, where a Togo-based Chadian trader stabbed a gendarme to death and took his gun, according to Minister of Security General Yark Damehame.
Video filmed in Togo
AFP Fact Check confirmed the video was actually taken in Togo.
A vehicle’s rear license plate number can be seen 38 seconds into the longer YouTube video published by TogoVisions. However, since the number appears blurry, AFP Fact Check used advanced search features on Twitter and Facebook to find a higher quality version of the same video.
In this tweet also referring to the attack in Lome, the number can be seen more sharply, in red on a yellow background. The four-digit number is separated from a series code of two letters with a gray dot, and at the far left of the license plate is an image of Togo’s national flag.
Screenshot showing the license plate, taken on June 7, 2022
The description matches the rear license plates of a commercial vehicle seen in an AFP photo taken in Togo, and is also similar to the current scheme of the country’s license plates according to the website of World License Plates. An AFP journalist in Togo confirmed this to be the case.
An image showing a commercial automobile in Togo’s northern city of Sokode ( AFP / Pius Utomi EKPEI)
The journalist also confirmed the language heard in the footage is Mina, spoken in southern Togo.
Mina is not commonly spoken in Nigeria's southwest region where the church attack occurred. Also, AFP Fact Check can confirm the language is neither Yoruba nor Owo dialect as some people speculated.
Furthermore, the camouflage worn by uniformed men in the video also matches the clothing worn by the Togolese National Gendarmerie. Like in France and other former French colonies, the Gendarmerie Nationale is the name of one of the security forces in Togo.
Screengrabs from the video showing the uniform of the Togolese National Gendarmerie (images on left and right) and an AFP photo showing the same uniform (centre)
Although investigations by police in Nigeria have led to the recovery of three undetonated improvised explosive devices from the scene of the church massacre, the gunmen behind the atrocity are yet to be identified.