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Fulani community chased out of Nigeria’s Ebonyi state by pro-Biafra forces? No, video of pastoralists moving of own accord

A video circulating online in early January 2021 shows a large truck parked next to a settlement of grass huts, some of the dwellings partly dismantled down to their frames.

“This is Fulanis in Ebonyi state,” a voice can be heard saying. “So we have destroyed their properties and sent them to start packing their properties.”

Ebonyi state in southeastern Nigeria has a large population of Igbo people. The Fulani are a widely dispersed group of mainly Muslim cattle herders scattered across West Africa.

“We don’t need Fulanis in Ebonyi,” the voice continues. “We don’t need Miyetti Allah in Ebonyi state.”

The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeding Association is an advocacy group for Fulani pastoralists in Nigeria.

The video has been posted on Facebook and YouTube with the claim that the people in the Fulani settlement were chased out of Ebonyi by the Eastern Security Network (ESN). The network was launched in December 2020 by Nnamdi Kanu, the diaspora-based leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, which campaigns for the secession of eastern Nigeria.

Kanu said the ESN was set up with the aim of “defending the territories of the region from terrorism and extra-judicial killings” and was “our answer to insecurity and Fulani terrorism”.

The video, and photos of the same scene, has been posted with comments such as “Eastern Security Networks (ESN) are not joking.... Fulani Janjaweed are packing, wicked and evil tribe” and “ESN at work as Fulani herdsmen re sent parking from our bushes in Ebonyi state”.

There have been reports of Fulani pastoralists being persecuted in Ebonyi, with herders telling BBC Hausa that in 2020, “at least 21 of their members were killed and their residences burned”.

Is something similar happening in the video? We checked.


‘Relocation to Taraba state’

On 4 January the Ebonyi state government held a press conference to denounce the “panic and tension” caused by the video and call for the arrest of people circulating it.

Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper reports that Inusa Sani, secretary of the Ebonyi chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, dismissed it as “fake news” and an “orchestrated attempt by mischief makers and enemies of peace”.

“What happened was that on 2 January, one of us, Alhaji Adamu, residing at Ozibo Village in Nkaleke Ichaba/Enyibishiri community, informed the association of his relocation to Taraba State,” the Guardian quotes Sani as saying. “No Fulani herdsman was attacked or chased out of Ebonyi State.’

He reportedly added that the herdsmen had “cohabited peacefully with their host communities without any fear, molestation, threat or intimidation from any quarter”.

The state’s police have also dismissed the claims in the video.

Where’s the violence?

Africa Check has recently analysed how the pro-Biafra disinformation machine churns out fiction as facts. Over the years we have debunked dozens of similar claims, many of them “poorly written, almost never attributed sources, and often contained mislabelled or manipulated photos and videos”.

There is no evidence that ESN forced the community out of Ebonyi state.

But there is evidence, in the video itself, that the Fulani community was moving peacefully and of its own accord. People work unhurriedly, some standing and chatting, and the playful voices of children can be heard. There are no signs of violence, distress or “ESN at work”.

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