Claiming images show neglected railway line between two Nigerian towns is misleading

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Social media posts are circulating in Nigeria with images purporting to show the dilapidated railway line connecting the oil town of Port Harcourt in the south of the country to Maiduguri in the northeast region of the country. This assertion is misleading; one of the four images shows a different railway line that has since been rebuilt, while the other three photos were taken earlier this year in Abia state, in southeastern Nigeria, after that thugs vandalized a section of the tracks. The rail corridor in question is nevertheless doomed to a major overhaul.

The first version of the claim appeared in a Facebook Publish on March 10, 2021, posted by an account called Jimoh Sule, according to data provided by social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.

Screenshot of the fake Facebook post, taken on March 15, 2021

“Before they started calling the Portharcourt-Maiduguri rail project that crosses 10 states Jonathan’s project, that’s what’s currently on the ground. (sic) ”, We read in the caption of the message.

Sule’s message was re-shared on Facebook by a page called Buhari Reporters. With nearly 250,000 subscribers, the page claims to highlight the “success” of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, according to the bio.

The four images circulating with the false claim also appeared on Twitter. here. The user who posted the tweet describes himself as a “Core Buharist”, which is a common term for Buhari supporters. This tweet was later shared by Buhari’s social media assistant Lauretta Onochie. AFP Fact Check previously debunked the fake information shared on Onochie’s account.

Screenshot of the fake Facebook post shared by Onochie, taken on March 15, 2021

Other people who shared the images and the misrepresentation include Joe igbokwe, the Special Advisor to the Governor of Lagos State for Drainage and Water Resources, and a Media Assistant to the Governor of Edo State, Jack Obinyan

Nigeria pushes rail development

Nigeria’s plan to diversify its economy outside of the oil sector leads to the creation of a national rail network, including rail projects designed by Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

Since Buhari defeated Jonathan in 2015, supporters of the two politicians have continued to debate the allocation of credit to recently completed rail projects in Africa’s most populous country.

In this context and the launch last week of a $ 3.2 billion project To rebuild the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri narrow gauge railway, social media accounts with a tradition of promoting government activities began to broadcast the set of images, believed to show the current state of railway lines. iron connecting the two Nigerian towns as examples of Jonathan’s legacy.

The main image shows a different train line

A reverse Google image search of the first image showing railroad tracks covered in growth led to this article online from September 27, 2020.

Further investigations revealed that the image was the first published online Aug 7, 2017, by Israel Ibeleme, a media aide to Nigerian Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi.

The image was taken during Amaechi’s first inspection of the Agbor station, which has now been renowned after Jonathan and is part of the development of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri railway line, according to one of the contractors who managed the project, Jules Berger. It does not show the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail corridor.

Photos of vandalized railway tracks

AFP Fact Check traced the remaining photos to Facebook posts as of January 2021, credited to Iroegbu Emenike, publisher of local online media Abia Facts Newspaper.

A search done on Facebook led to the original version images on the Emenike timeline. There is no evidence the images have ever been posted to social media, according to data from CrowdTangle.

The images of Emenike have been posted with a link to a online report on repeated cases of theft of railway tracks in the area of ​​the Isuikwuato local council, in the state of Abia. AFP fact check confirmed the presence of a railway installation in Isuikwuato called Ovim station.

Although the damaged section resulting from the theft is part of the planned redevelopment route between Port Harcourt and Maiduguri, these particular images are not evidence of general neglect.


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