Nigerian Spam

Rumor: A hotel restaurant in Nigeria was found to be selling human meat.


Claim:   A hotel restaurant in Nigeria was found to be selling human meat.


MIXTURE
FALSE: A hotel restaurant in Nigeria was found to be serving human meat.
 
TRUE: Human heads were found in a Nigerian hotel room, which the hotel's owner maintains were planted there as a set up over a business dispute.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2005]

Is it true that a Nigerian restaurant was serving human flesh and the police went there and they discovered Human Heads and flesh in the restaurant kitchen?
 

Origins:   On 5 September 2013, the Nigerian tabloid Osun Defender published a grisly account (sourced from the Naija Loaded forum) about a local hotel that had been shut down after reports surfaced that its restaurant was selling dishes made of human meat, with police reportedly recovering two fresh cellophane-wrapped human heads at the scene:

On Thursday Onitsha police arrested 11 people after they discovered 2 fresh human heads in a hotel (name withheld) very close to the popular Ose-Okwodu market in Anambra state. Two AK47 rifles & other weapons were also discovered in the hotel.

The arrest followed tip-offs from area residents on Thursday morning.

The hotel owner, 6 women and 4 men were arrested.

After police got access to the hotel, they made a startling discovery of two human heads wrapped in a cellophane bag, two AK47 rifles, two army caps, 40 rounds of live ammunition and so many cell phones.

"Each time I came to market, because the hotel is very close to the market, I always noticed funny movements in and out of the hotel; dirty people with dirty characters always come into the hotel. So, I was not surprised when the police made this discovery in the early hours of yesterday," said a vegetable seller in the area

A Pastor who was among the people who tipped off the police on Thursday said: "I went to the hotel early this year, after eating, I was told that a lump of meat was being sold at N700, I was surprised. So I did not know it was human meat that I ate at such expensive price."
 

This account was widely picked up by many western news outlets in February 2014, including the New York Daily News, the International Business Times, the Independent, Metro, and Gawker, all of whom unquestioningly reported it as straight news.

This two-year-old story inexplicably got a boost when it was repeated on the Swahili-language section of the BBC's web site on 13 May 2015 and was picked up again from there by western press outlets (such as the Daily Mail) a few days later.

But was it true? The original report included several typical signs of fake news:

  • The article was completely lacking in verifiable details: The name of the hotel where the gruesome discovery was allegedly made was withheld, the persons quoted in the article were referenced only by vague descriptions and not by name (e.g., "a vegetable seller," "a pastor,"), none of the eleven persons purportedly arrested was identified, and not a single law enforcement officer or other official was quoted, named, or referenced in the story.
  • The claim stemmed from a single source: No other news outlet was cited by the western media, who merely repeated what Osun Defender had published without further verification. Nor were any follow-up articles published about the incident to reveal such information as whose bodies were being dished out.
  • The article appeared flippant in tone (e.g., a pastor's reaction to being informed that he had consumed human flesh was to note how expensive the meat was):
    "Each time I came to market, because the hotel is very close to the market, I always noticed funny movements in and out of the hotel; dirty people with dirty characters always come into the hotel. So, I was not surprised when the police made this discovery in the early hours of yesterday," said a vegetable seller in the area

    A Pastor who was among the people who tipped off the police on Thursday said: "I went to the hotel early this year, after eating, I was told that a lump of meat was being sold at N700, I was surprised. So I did not know it was human meat that I ate at such expensive price."
  • Multiple comments left on the Defender's site by local residents (and others) denounced the newspaper for regularly printing false news stories like this one.
All in all, what we had was the western press repeating a single-source story which a Nigerian tabloid had picked up from an online forum. However, overlooked in all that initial U.S. and UK reporting was that other news sources, such as the Nigerian Tribune, had also contemporaneously reported the same event, with additional verifiable details that suggested there might be something to the story:

According a police source, who pleaded anonymity, he reviewed that during the operation that lasted for hours, the police team, led by a senior police officer attached to the IGP Monitoring Unit, cordoned off the hotel after several intelligence reports that human meat were being served to guests in the said hotel.

Though the Onitsha Area Commander, Mr Benjamin Wordu, declined further comments on the matter on the grounds that the police was still investigating the case to make further discovery, it was gathered that during the operation, an Infiniti SUV, belonging to the owner of the hotel, with registration number DA203FST was also recovered.

Meanwhile, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Emeka Chukwuemeka, confirmed the incident and said the police had intensified manhunt to arrest all members of the cartel.
 

Here we have various law enforcement officials cited and referenced by name, which lends a degree of versimilitude to the story. But all that such reports confirmed was that a raid on the hotel took place, not necessarily that the shocking claims about human meat being served up to unsuspecting restaurant patrons were true.

A 29 December 2013 article from the Nigerian publication Vanguard quoted the hotel's owner, Bonaventure Mokwe, as asserting that he had been set up over a motor park dispute between him and some Onitsha natives. According to Mr. Mokwe, his business rivals planted two rotten skulls (as well as rifles and magazines) in one of his hotel's rooms, and the rumors of human being served to guests were a fabricated excuse that police used to raid the hotel, arrest Mr. Mokwe, put him on trial for murder, and ultimately demolish his hotel:

Prior to the day I was arrested and my hotel demolished on the directive of Anambra State governor, I was involved in a motor park dispute with some Onitsha natives.

Within the period , I wrote the Obi of Onitsha three times asking him to intervene and call the natives to order but he remained understandably silent. When that failed, I wrote a petition to the Anambra State Commissioner of Police which he minuted to the Onitsha Area Commander who in turn assigned an Inspector to investigate. But these efforts ended as soon as they started.

When that failed again, I went to court and obtained an order which was served on the palace of Obi of Onitsha, the police and leaders of the Onitsha natives antagonising me. Soon after some bus drivers started loading in my park and all hell broke loose, as threats of all dimension started coming from the Onitsha natives which culminated in the planting of the exhibits in my hotel. The human skulls and magazines were parked in a sac and planted in the wardrobe at my hotel lodging room number 102.

I drove into my office around 7 am that fateful day because I had a land transaction. Before I could settle down, my hotel was surrounded by the police numbering over 100. As I made my way towards my office entrance, some of them were already in the passage. I was taken into my office and shown a search warrant.

In the process, one police officer betrayed the whole adventure when he shouted at one of my staff to be shown room 102. It did not make sense to me then. The first thing I saw when the door of the room was opened was an unsealed traveling bag on the floor. Some polythene bags were inside the bag and two on the bed. Nothing was found in the toilet and under the bed. The police then opened the wardrobe of the room and brought out one single Bagco sac, in which were two rotten skulls, two A.K-47 rifles that looked unserviceable and two loaded magazines.

The mock search exercise started and ended after five minutes or thereabouts at the door of room 102. Incidentally the lodger locked the room and left with the key around 6.30 am, following which the police showed up.

I was immediately handcuffed and taken outside the corridor of the hotel, where I was told to sit next to the exhibits while they took pictures. Soon after that, I, alongside my staff, was taken to the police Area Command Onitsha and paraded before the public and journalists.
 

According to Mr. Mokwe, the police showed no interest in investigating or arresting the lodger who had occupied the room in question immediately before they had coincidentally arrived to search it:

The identity of the person that lodged in my hotel room number 102 on the very day the police came searching was unmasked. Though he gave his name as John Obi, his true identity was that of a native of Umudie village. His picture was smuggled and shown to the receptionist who identified him as the person he gave the receipt of room 102 that fateful day. It was him who planted the exhibits in the hotel room wardrobe.

The police have some questions to answer: why did they not make attempt to arrest the person that lodged in the room, despite the fact that guest's [registration] was sent to them? If it was real, the person who stayed in the hotel room should have been apprehended. It would then be for him to reveal who gave him the things [he left in the room], because there is no way he could have slept in that room with all those things without knowing.

When the identity of the people that orchestrated my hotel set-up became known even by the general public, a petition was written by my lawyer to the Inspector-General of Police, listing their names. But the police sat on it because arresting them would have meant releasing me and that would have meant a state financial liability and embarrassment for the state government.
 

Mr. Mokwe also maintained that he was set up on criminal charges, and his hotel was demolished, at the behest of a corrupt local government and police force:

A week after I arrived [at prison], it became increasingly clear that the incident was a set-up. Matters were not helped by what occurred when the police first took me to the grave of one Mr Nwonye Akas, a native of Nkwuele Ezinaka Itite village, who died in 1972 when I was still [a toddler], to say I killed and buried the man at the place.

With the police under pressure from the media, most especially by NIPPRON, I, along with three of my staff, was arraigned in court on the 17th of October 2013 and a murder charge along with possession of human skulls and fire arms were heaped on us and we were subsequently remanded in prison. I spent a total of two months and seventeen days at SARS Awkuzu.

My hotel demolition had nothing to do with fighting crime, as it was sold to the general public.

When I was bailed, a legal officer with Anambra State government begged my cousin to tell me to lie low until after the elections. I obeyed. So you can see that it’s not all about justice, it's about what they can gain from it. They told me to lie low that after electioneering campaign, something would be done to address the issue, but till date nothing has been done.

The state government should sit with my lawyer or appoint someone to sit with my lawyer and agree on how to pay for the damages. You don't beat somebody and tell him not to cry. Secondly, this matter is impossible to wish away. No amount of prayer will wish it away. I must be paid everything. Everything I had was destroyed, including my Green Card, in that hotel building.

Those fabricated charges should be cancelled because they are mere damage control charges intended to fill in the blanks, they have no bearing on me because they were manufactured. You don't charge one for possession when you didn’t see anything on him. Also, you don't charge someone for murder when investigation has not been done.
 



Last updated:   17 May 2015



Sources:

    Obomase, Joy.   "Skulls in Onitsha Hotel Room: My Story — Citizen Mokwe."
    Vanguard.   29 December 2013.

    Oruya, Suzy.   "Police Arrest 11 with 2 Fresh Human Heads in Onitsha."
    Nigerian Tribune.   2 August 2013.

    Osun Defender.   "Hotel Selling Cooked Human Meat Found in Onitsha."
    5 September 2013.

founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.



Snopes