Deborah Samuel: Viral image of clergyman holding rifle has been online since 2017

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A VIRAL image showing a clergyman dressed in a purple-and-white cassock with a rifle cradled in his arms has surfaced online with a claim that it shows a Christian priest armed reportedly in self-defense in Sokoto state.

The image is circulating online following the civil unrest in Sokoto state over the killing of Deborah Samuel, a 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in the state.

Miss Samuel was stoned and burnt to death by an angry mob on Thursday, May 12, 2022 within the school premises over alleged blasphemy against the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW).

READ: TVC news report that Deborah Samuel’s killing in Sokoto is connected with ASUU strike is FALSE

A Facebook page, Bliss Naija posted the image with a caption:

SHOCKER: Rev Father Goes to Church With AK 47 to Defend Himself Against Islamists Protesters in Sokoto. 

“He wrote: ‘Today I came to church with this to defend myself against Sokoto state Islamists fanatics youths.'”

The post has generated more than 200 comments, 190 likes with over 300 shares as of 12PM on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Similarly, another Facebook user with the name, Chioma Ibekwe Loret, also posted the picture with a caption: 

“A Rev father goes to church with AK 47 to defend himself against islamists protesters in Sokoto….. what is ur partake in dis, is it right?? ”

The claim also surfaced here and here online.

CLAIM

The image shows a Reverend Father armed with a gun for self-defense in Sokoto.

Screenshot of the viral Facebook post showing a clergyman armed with a rifle.

THE FINDINGS

A Google Reverse Image Search on the image shows that the photo has been online since January 2017, The Punch newspaper reported.

According to media reports, the picture was posted online by one Facebook user identified as Achike Onwuazo.

In the post, Onwuazo claimed that the unidentified Reverend Father armed himself with a rifle to protect himself and his church against terrorists’ and herders’ attacks.

Some media reports such as this reported that the clergyman was from a volatile part of Northern Nigeria while others suggested that the clergyman was an Anambra-based Catholic priest.

ALSO READ: Claim that Sokoto govt approves death penalty law for blasphemy is FALSE

It will be recalled that the image also went viral in August 2017 following the Ozubulu killings in Anambra state.

However, using available public records, The FactCheckHub can confirm that the viral image has nothing to do with the Sokoto incident of last week.

THE VERDICT

The viral image of the clergyman posing with a gun in a church has been online since January 2017 and has nothing to do with the Sokoto incident of last week; thus making the claim FALSE.

Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact-checker with FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks which have contributed to the fight against information disorder. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 via Twitter.

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