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Calabar-Itu highway in Nigeria’s Niger Delta? No, photo of Benin-Okene road

A graphic posted on Facebook on 20 July 2020 shows lines of vehicles trying to make their way through deep mud on a flooded dirt road. A small island of asphalt indicates that the road was once tarred.

“This is Calabar-Itu highway in Niger Delta and the MD has the guts to ‘faint’ during questioning,” the graphic’s text reads. It was posted with the comment: “This is part of what the NDDC fund was meant to solve but they decided to enrich themselves and impoverish the people! Really sad indeed!!!”

The NDDC is the Niger Delta Development Commission, set up in 2000 to develop the oil-rich Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria. Its mission, according to its website, is to make the region “economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful”.

But Nigeria’s federal lawmakers are investigating allegations of extravagant spending, contract inflation, contract splitting and other corrupt practices at the commission.

On 20 July, NDDC acting head Kemebradikumo Pondei fainted while being quizzed by lawmakers about the commission’s spending. 

Soon after, photos of supposedly abandoned projects in the Niger Delta have spread online. Is this one of them?

Wrong highway

The road is not the Calabar-Itu highway. A Google reverse image search reveals that the photo shows the Benin-Lokoja-Okene road that connects Benin City, the capital of Edo State, with Okene, a town in Kogi state in eastern Nigeria.

The photo appears, along with several others, in a September 2018 article in the Nigerian Tribune under the headline “Motorists’ nightmare on Okene-Lokoja road”.

It was republished in Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper in December 2019 in the article “Benin-Okene Road: The pain, agony and wrong palliatives”.

In February 2020 the Guardian reported that the works ministry had approved construction of the Calabar-Itu highway, which would begin soon. – Fatima Abubakar

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