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No proof that these images show vehicles hidden by corrupt politicians in Nigeria

IN SHORT: Images of vehicles in a ditch are going viral in Nigeria with the claim that they were hidden there by corrupt politicians. But the same images were posted online weeks before they started circulating in Nigeria, with a different claim linking the vehicles to Afghanistan.

“And our politicians want to make Heaven,” reads the caption of a post on X (formerly Twitter), with over 195,000 views.

The post is accompanied by three photos of cars lined up in a trench and covered in dirt.

The images have been circulating on social media platforms in Nigeria since 13 December 2023, with different captions. Social media users claim that the vehicles were hidden by corrupt politicians, which is not an entirely unexpected accusation given the high level of corruption in the country.

Some of the captions read: 

  • Discovered and sized from Ex-Gov of Zamfara state, your current Minister of State for Defence.
  • The most corrupted and thief politicians are in Nigeria may God save our country from this kind of people …
  • I told you people that these set of thieves and their followers don't mean well for this nation!

Bello Matawalle is the former governor of the Zamfara state in northwestern Nigeria. He was appointed minister of state for defence in August.

The Zamfara state government reportedly recovered 50 vehicles from the former governor’s houses. Matawalle had denied being in possession of any government property when he left office.

In 2022, Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. The score is the perceived level of corruption in the public sector, with zero being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean.

Similar posts can be found on Facebook here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Another post on X received over 168,000 views, while this one was posted by an Instagram account with over 145,000 followers.

We looked at where and when the pictures were taken, and here's what we found.


Same images, different context

Using reverse image search, Africa Check found the same images posted on X on 23 November 2023, about three weeks before they began circulating on social media in Nigeria. They were captioned: “Look at what forces of IEA discover in Balkh Province.”

Balkh is a province in northern Afghanistan, a country in south-central Asia. The Taliban militant group regained control of the country in 2021 and declared it the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or IEA.

Another post on X, also from November 2023, said: “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials in Balkh have discovered an underground hidden depot of luxurious armored vehicles, once used by foreign forces and former government officials.”

A Reddit post also claimed the vehicles were “buried by former corrupt Afghan politicians before leaving Afghanistan”.

We couldn’t corroborate whether the vehicles pictured were found in northern Afghanistan or if they belonged to former Afghan government officials. 

However, we also found no news reports in the Nigerian media about the recovery of stolen vehicles. This is a newsworthy event and would have been reported if true. We found no evidence it is.

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