Claim: The image of an ongoing construction of a house on a rail line was shared by a Facebook user, BuzzeeMo claiming that a resident of Potiskum in Yobe State was building a house on a rail line.
Verdict: The claim is false. The image appeared online in September 2019 as that of a Kenyan building a house on a railway line. The Kenya Railway Corporation has since rebuked the contractor and warned that it would soon embark on reclaiming its land.
On October 5, 2021, a Facebook user, which identifies itself as a news/media company, shared the image of an ongoing house construction on a railway line, with the claim that the ongoing building is in Potiskum in Yobe State, North-East of Nigeria.
The post, which received mixed reactions from other users, generated 127 comments. Though some users had alleged that the image was not taken in Nigeria but in Zambia, it nevertheless was shared 153 times. BuzzeeMo captioned the image: “A resident of Potiskum town in Yobe State built his house on a rail track.” He further stated below the text, “Nigerians and cruise.”
In the image, a building is under construction in the middle of a railway line. There is a yellow and red kiosk by the right side, while a young woman in a red and white floral dress backing the camera leans on the kiosk.
The image posted on Facebook has gathered mixed reactions from Facebook users but has equally been shared 153 times
Potiskum is one of the 17 local government areas in Yobe. Potiskum town has been described as a thriving trading centre in Yobe and the North-East region of Nigeria. People from neighbouring Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi and Gombe states, as well as numerous others from Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Central African Republic are said to have stakes in the ‘biggest cattle market in sub-Saharan Africa,’ which is situated in Potiskum.
Also sharing borders with Borno State, Potiskum has witnessed its own share of insecurity, associated with Boko Haram. A suicide bombing at a Shia march in Potiskum in 2014 had killed 15 people, while another suicide bombing at a secondary school caused the death of over 40 students in November of the same year. There have been several other attacks that have rocked the town of Potiskum.
A Google reverse search of the image showed that the photograph had appeared numerous times on the internet, starting from September 2021. Further checks revealed that most of the posts in relation to the image came from Kenyans, who questioned why the Kenya Railway Corporation was yet to do something about it. The image had hit the Kenyan cyberspace on September 29, 2021 and shortly went viral.
Following reactions from Kenyans on why the country’s railway corporation had failed to reclaim its lines, it issued a statement of warning to the contractor undertaking the housing project, noting that it would soon embark on reclaiming its lands. The corporation also urged the contractor to stop further construction and pull down the structure.
Google reverse image search shows the image trended in September 2021, with most of the posters linking it to Kenya.
About Nigeria’s railway lines
Nigeria’s railway lines have been in existence for over a century. Its history goes as far back as 1898 when the British colonial government constructed the first railroad. However, what is today referred to as Nigerian railways came into being on October 3, 1912 when the Lagos Colony railway and the Baro-Kano railway were amalgamated.
When the colonial administration constructed the railway lines, it was to enable it evacuate minerals and agricultural raw materials and forest resources from the interior parts of the country and enable the selling of imported manufactured goods in these interior locations. The rail lines succeeded in linking up the different regions of the country and promoting inter-regional trade, as well as increasing industrial and economic development.
The railway network runs diagonally from Lagos in the South-West to Nguru, Yobe State in the North East, and from Port Harcourt in the South South through Kafanchan in Kaduna State in the North West to Maiduguri in the North East.
Despite being one of the modern and safest means of transportation, not much has been achieved in terms of expanding Nigeria’s rail lines since 1964, except the 277 kilometers standard gauge rail line project under construction between Itakpe via Ajaokuta to Warri, which was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020.
This is why immediately the Federal Government of Nigeria approved the award of contracts for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri eastern narrow gauge line in 2020, some stakeholders from Potiskum wrote to President Buhari, seeking the inclusion of the town in the proposed rail project.
Map of Nigeria’s railway lines from maps of the world
The proposed project, which will link Gashua, Damaturu in Yobe State, did not include Potiskum, which has one of the largest cattle markets, not only in Nigeria but West Africa. The letter, signed by the head of Yerman Gudi community, Idriss Madu, on behalf of other stakeholders, stated that Potiskum town had the largest grains market in Nigeria and the largest fleet of transport, including heavy duty vehicles, and is a vital link to four state capitals, including Bauchi, Damaturu, Gombe, Dutse; therefore, it was important to call the president’s attention to the “obvious neglect of the strategic town in the proposed rail line.”
Nigerian Railway Corporation denounces image
When our correspondent contacted the Nigerian Railway Corporation on the veracity of the image in circulation, the deputy director, public relations, Mr Mahmud Yakub, said, “There is no railway line in Potiskum.”
This is a hint that the image could not have been taken in Potiskum. Yakub, however, directed our correspondent to the public relations officer, Railway Property Management Company Limited, Gloria Binda Zinass, for further details on the matter.
When contacted, Zinnas said the company had come in contact with the same image with a different claim. She said that after investigations, all the six zonal and six area offices of the Railway Property Management Company had revealed that such a scenario did not exist anywhere in Nigeria.
Findings showed that the image, though authentic, was used in a misleading context, as the incident did not occur in Potiskum, Yobe State, or anywhere in Nigeria. Findings showed that the incident occurred in Kenya.
The researcher produced this fact-check as part of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship, in partnership with Daily Trust to facilitate truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country