Foreign Helicopter Pilot Caught Supplying Arms To Nigeria’s ‘Bandits’? No

Juan Remy Quignolot’s arrest took place in May 2021 in the Central African Republic after an arms stockpile was found in his house.

Several recent posts on social media are sharing pictures of a French national and claiming he was arrested after supplying arms to armed groups in North-central Nigeria. The claims are false.

“Breaking News: Pilot who supplies weapons to bandits has been arrested in Niger. Juan Remy, an helicopter pilot [sic] who supplies weapons to bandits has been arrested by the indigenous people of Niger State. White people are the real problem the Africa have today,” tweeted one account on Friday, which went on to tag the United Nations and other handles.

An account named ArewaReporters wrote: “Troops have arrested a France pilot who supplies weapons to a bandit in the niger state. France is our problem.”

There are several other versions of the same tweet on the microblogging platform. One user even says the pilot is “presently in police custody”. Though he did not immediately attach the pictures, a tweet from @OAlmarkazy shared on Friday morning has been retweeted over 370 times and is liked by over 1,400 people.

The same claim has appeared on multiple blogs.

Screenshot taken on Aug. 27, 2022.

The facts are, however, different and have nothing to do with events in Nigeria. 

The pictures in circulation are from last year. Juan Remy Quignolot’s arrest took place on Monday, May 10, 2021, in the Central African Republic after a stockpile of arms was found in his house.

HumAngle reported at the time that Quignolot, a former French soldier, had been living in Bangui since 2013 and presented himself as a media consultant.

“He is a man who was being followed by the police service. And today, the police demanded that the state prosecutor’s office give them an authorisation to search his house and we did give authorisation for the police to search the house,” said Eric Didier Tombo, who was prosecuting the case at the Bangui Appeal Court.

“We ourselves took part in this search and we found military materials, notably military fatigues, rangers, arms and ammunitions. We also found West African bank notes, dollars and euros. There are many arms and a lot of ammunition. It would appear he is a military trainer, a consultant and also a journalist. According to police sources that briefed us, it would appear he was among the Seleka instructors.”

Claims about foreign countries and nationals aiding non-state armed groups in Nigeria are not uncommon.

Last year, HumAngle fact-checked claims that Customs officials intercepted weapons donated to Boko Haram by France, that there was an illegal runway in Zamfara through which criminals smuggled armed, and that a helicopter was delivering supplies to terrorists in the Northwest.

Sometimes, such claims become popular because people struggle to understand how the armed groups have access to huge amounts of heavy weapons. It has, however, been established that some of the arms are smuggled in from places like Libya through the Niger Republic or seized from state forces. Others are handmade and locally produced.

“Some of these weapons and a substantial proportion of ammunition were originally lost, stolen or captured from Nigerian national stockpiles,” noted a Conflict Armament Research (CAR) report of Jan. 2020.

In the case of international arms smuggling, terror groups in the region have admitted to spending ransoms paid by kidnap victims on new weapons.

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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