A series of videos recently emerged on the internet showing pickup trucks and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles with the United Nations logo moving across roads in southern Nigeria. Some social media account users claimed the UN might be mobilising forces in the region, but the Nigerian authorities have clarified the speculation is not true and there is a simple explanation.
A suggestive post by @PidomNigeria on the microblogging site Twitter said the vehicles were seen in Edo state in the south-south region. It had over 659,300 views as of Wednesday morning.
“Security Alert! Nigeria is not at war, I don’t know what (UN) peace keeping trucks, with supplies, are doing in Nigeria, heading down south. SE & SS parts of Nigeria. These trucks were sighted in Ekpoma, Edo state today. Along the federal road around, big joe bus park Ekpoma,” the account tweeted on March 31 alongside two videos.
The same day another account, @BishopPOEvang, posted a video of a flatbed truck moving containers with the UN signs claiming “unconfirmed reports suggest mobilisation”. More than 33,800 people have viewed the tweet so far.
A day later, @simon_ekpa, a notorious amplifier of the violent separatist agitation in the country’s southeast, posted a video showing the convoy stuck in traffic at night, with the caption, “The UN coming to Nigeria when we’ve not even started?”
A voice could be heard saying in pidgin English, “Na UN come so, UN.” The speaker, who appears to be having a conversation with someone close by, adds, “Na war na … na that May 29,” referring to the date of the swearing of the President-elect.
Several accounts have shared the same videos with varying accompanying messages, some linking them to the separatist crisis in southern Nigeria.
One Twitter user @jeomontour wrote on April 2, “It’s happening now, UN are in almost 6 state’s in Nigeria right now and more are still coming, these are not UN observer, they are UN peacekeeping force fully armed, hopefully they will approve our referendum, they will hold the Nigeria army not bridge the reference process.”
HumAngle has identified the vehicles which were placed on flatbed trucks to be Toyota Landcruisers, including a gun truck variant and Poly Technologies CS/VP3 Bigfoot MRAP in service with the Nigerian Army.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters explained in a press release that the country was contributing troops to United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in South Sudan.
“It should be noted that the UN doesn’t have its own troops, rather it enter[s] into agreement with troops contributing countries to provide their personnel and equipment for operations in its various missions,” it stated.
“Therefore, it is imperative to state emphatically that the military fighting vehicles and equipment painted in UN colour as sighted are being moved through the Warri port for movement to the mission area in Southern Sudan to marry up with our troops who were inducted into UNISFA mission last month.”
The military said it had to react because the posts on social media had led to “insinuations which are inimical to public peace and may even cause panic”.
UNISFA is a peacekeeping mission founded in 2011 for the Abyei region on the border of Sudan and South Sudan. The interim force supports the delivery of humanitarian aid and the free movement of relief workers in and around the region.
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