Social media users recently circulated a picture of Bello Turji, a notorious terrorist leader in North West Nigeria, wearing a police uniform, with claims that the Police had recruited him after he dropped his arms.
HumAngle has, however, confirmed that the picture is old and misleading.
On Jan. 14, a user of X/Twitter, @IAmThatNaijaGuy, posted an image of Bello Turji in police uniform, saying that the wanted terrorist had joined the Nigeria Police as a “special police constabulary” in Kano. The post was shared over 2,000 times and gathered over 1,700 likes. It also attracted nearly 390,000 views on the platform.
To corroborate his claim, the X user cited news reports stating that the Kano state government absorbed 222 “repentant thugs” as police special constables after training them.
The comments showed that many of the people who interacted with the post believed the police had truly recruited a terrorist known for masterminding deadly attacks in the northern region.
“One time they claimed he was killed. Only for us to see he’s now a police officer. Criminals get pardoned and rewarded in northern Nigeria. Then they come out to cry when the results unfold,” one person replied.
Similar claims have been made in the past. In September 2022, TikTok user @Chimamandaud also posted a video claiming Turji had joined the police, using the same picture. In 2021, there were also false claims that a ‘repentant bandit’ had been recruited by the Nigeria Customs Service.
The picture of Turji in this case, however, predates the recruitment exercise in Kano — the first phase of which took place in October 2023.
A Google reverse image search showed that one of the first places the viral image first appeared was on Arewa Times, a Hausa news blog, which published it on Jan. 2, 2022. The image was accompanied by a headline that read, “Bello Turji Ya Saki Sabon Shi Sanye Da Kakin Jami’an Tsaro (Bello Turji has released his new picture wearing a police uniform).”
The picture was published on many Facebook pages the previous day, which indicated that Turji had released a set of photos to confirm he was alive. In December 2021, Nigeria’s Air Force bombed his camp, killing many of his fighters and relatives and leading to suspicions that he himself may have been a casualty.
Further search showed that between January and September 2022, several media organisations used the image in reports related to the bandit leader.
It is not uncommon for terrorists and bandits to wear the uniform of security personnel as a way to flaunt their influence or trick potential victims. Jihadists in North East Nigeria have also released videos of themselves in military fatigue, which are mostly looted following attacks on state forces.
The Nigeria Police has also debunked the claims.
In response to the allegations, police spokesperson Olumuyiwa Adejobi said on Jan. 17, “Turji has never been recruited into the police. It’s a lie. This picture is not a new one.”
The Zamfara State Police Command also clarified that Turji was not its member nor affiliated with it.
“The police have declared him and others wanted for their acts against the state. It is vital to note that the said bandits usually get such uniforms when they murder uniformed personnel or attack operational formations,” said Yazid Abubakar, the command’s spokesperson.
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