Viral messages circulating on news platforms and WhatsApp claim that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) constructed a N2.3 billion wooden bridge in Elebele community of Bayelsa State.
VERDICT: The claims that the NDDC constructed the N2.3 billion wooden bridge in Elebele community are false. A reverse image search of the photo of the bridge shows that it was a self-help project by the community after the original bridge collapsed in September 2019.
In the wake of the probe of the NDDC by the members of the National Assembly, a claim went viral on social media that the Commission spent N2.3bn to construct a makeshift bridge in Elebele community of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
“This is the N2.3 billion, Elebele Bridge in Ogbia local govt area in Bayelsa State. NDDC awarded the contract in 2018, was completed in 2020. When they are fainting, know why they are fainting,” the viral text read.
The last paragraph alluded to the fainting of the NDDC’s acting Managing Director, Kemebradikumo Pondei, during a recent public hearing held by members of the House Committee on NDDC.
Similarly, on July 23, 2020, an online news medium, Springnews, published the same photo of the wooden bridge with the claim that the NDDC Chairman commissioned the bridge.
The post was headlined, “Fraud: See The N2.3billion Bridge Built in Bayelsa, Commissioned by NDDC Chairman.”
The text of the post says: “The photos of the $5million Bridge built by NDDC has been revealed online. The total cost of the bridge sums up to N2.3 billion, and many Nigerians have started reacting to it.”
About Elebele bridge
The Elebele community bridge, which links the town with other communities in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State collapsed under the weight of a trailer loaded with building materials on September 5, 2019.
Consequently, the Ogbia Brotherhood Youth Council released a statement advising commuters to use alternative routes.
“The leadership of the Ogbia Brotherhood Youth Council is using this medium to call on the state government, local government, SPDC and other stakeholders to as a matter of utmost concern come to the yearnings of the people,” the statement read.
A reverse image search of the Elebele makeshift bridge photo accompanying the claim showed that the image was first posted to a Facebook Page of Bayelsa State Youth Council, with 564 followers, on September 19, 2019.
The post, entitled “UPDATE ON ELEBELE BRIDGE COLLAPSE,” informed followers of the page that the Ogbia Executive Chairman, Hon. Turner Ebinyo, and State House of Assembly member representing Ogbia Constituency 3, Hon. Naomi Ogoli, visited the community and promised to construct a temporary bridge.
“The construction is ongoing and it would be completed soon to allow for foot movement and business transactions,” the post stated.
Further examination shows that the photo was first uploaded online 14 days after the Elebele bridge collapsed, between September 5, 2019 and September 29, 2019, contrary to the claim in the viral WhatsApp message that the contract for replacing the bridge was awarded in 2018 and completed in 2020.
In addition, no Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data was found in the photo when checked online. This could be because the original version of the picture was sourced from Facebook, which strips out EXIF data from uploaded photos.
More so, NDDC has debunked the claim that the Commission constructed the viral wooden bridge.
A statement signed on July 23, 2020, by NDDC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Charles Obi Odili, noted that the wooden bridge has nothing to do with the NDDC.
The statement said the Elebele community had sought the assistance of the Commission to rebuild the bridge which had collapsed, but the proposal was still going through processing at the Commission and is currently at the design stage.
“While awaiting NDDC’s intervention, the Community undertook a self-help project and built the wooden bridge. It has no NDDC input. NDDC has not paid out any money for it,” the statement added.
The claims that the NDDC constructed a N2.3 billion wooden bridge in Elebele community is false. The bridge in question was the result of a community effort following the collapse of the original bridge last September. Moreover, reverse image analysis corroborates the aforementioned facts, and the NDDC refuted the claim.
The researcher produced these factchecks under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Daily Trust to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.