An investigation by SaharaReporters suggests that Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State orchestrated a false and misleading campaign when he recently asserted that his state had earned $5 million by exporting vegetables. Speaking recently in Abuja, Mr. Obiano said his government had boosted agricultural exports and was selling millions worth of vegetables, mostly to Europe. Reports also said that these exports earnings are from pumpkin leaves and bitter leaves.
SaharaReporters has found that, as part of Mr. Obiano’s campaign, he used images allegedly from Anambra farms depicting luscious produce, including red tomatoes. The governor’s public relations stunt has been circulating on Internet platforms featuring photos of tomato farms said to be producing “European standard” tomatoes.
However, when SaharaReporters reverse-image-searched the photos being circulated by Mr. Obiano’s government, our investigators found that the images were lifted from other websites but deceptively identified as photos from Anambra farms. For example, an image of young vegetable plants actually comes from an Internet page from August 13, 2014, titled “Irrigation Practices in West Africa.”
Another photo circulated by Mr. Obiano can be traced back to a 2010 blog post by an American named Chris Courtin, who had taken the photo during his fellowship in Nyumbani Village in Kitui County, Kenya. In his blog post Mr. Courtin wrote about the tomatoes saying, “they grow mostly tomatoes in the greenhouses and they were the biggest tomato vines I had ever seen” and “aside from picking tomatoes I also picked cow peas.”
Our investigations learned that, as word began to spread that some photos released by the state government may have been taken from other sources, his team swung into action to create a series of photo events to demonstrate how well Anambra’s agricultural sector is doing.
The desperate attempts resulted in several photo ops featuring rural farmers standing around a modest pile of leafy greens and in front of an Anambra State banner stating “Anambra State Government Agriculture Export Programme” and “Willie is Working”. One woman was photographed using her teeth to tear the leaves supposedly meant for export to Europe.
Our investigators also found out that officials of Anambra State also visited the cargo section of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos to pose with agricultural produce headed to South Africa with hurriedly made banners draped over one or two of the cargo parcels.
SaharaReporters attempted to reach Mr. Obiano to ask certain questions, including information on the location of state farms large enough to produce agricultural products worth $5 million in exports, the specific companies used to ship the produce, and end-receiver documents from European buyers, but we were not able to reach him or any of his officials at the time of publication.