Nigeria’s Labour Party recently put out a statement saying that opposition leader Peter Obi had a “routine immigration engagement” at a London airport, and denied rumours that the United Kingdom had apologised for detaining him. Following this, a photo showing Obi with a top Nigerian government official and a purported UK immigration officer emerged on social media alongside a claim that the Nigerian official facilitated Obi’s release from a purported detention. But the claim is false: the photo was digitally altered, and the official was not in London at the time.
“Here is how the government of APC helped to recover Peter Obi from his detention cell in the UK over allegations of traveling to the UK with fake documents,” reads a tweet published on April 13, 2023, which has been shared more than 3,400 times.
The post includes a photo showing Nigerian opposition leader Peter Obi and the chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, sitting before a supposed UK immigration official.
Adamu Garba, a high-profile member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), shared the tweet to his more than 126,000 followers.
He published the same content on his Facebook page. The politician has been the subject of AFP debunks in the past (here and here).
Obi was one of the three leading presidential candidates in the February 2023 election but lost to the APC’s Bola Tinubu. However, Obi and Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have petitioned the election results in court, each claiming that they won.
On April 12, the Labour Party said in a now-deleted statement that Obi was detained and “questioned” by UK immigration officials at London’s Heathrow airport on April 7 for a “duplication offense” (archived here). The party alleged that someone had been impersonating Obi in London.
In a later statement, it referred to the incident simply as a “routine immigration engagement” (archived here).
However, the claim that Dabiri-Erewa secured Obi’s release from detention in the UK is false.
Using reverse image search, AFP Fact Check found that the image was digitally altered and is made from three separate photos taken at different locations and times.
The part of the image showing Dabiri-Erewa was taken from a photo she posted on Twitter on March 31, 2023 (archived here).
Dabiri-Erewa said the original photo showed her on a “courtesy visit” to Nigeria’s naval chief, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo.
The Nigerian Navy published the same photo on Twitter on March 30, 2023 (archived here).
Courtesy call on the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral AZ Gambo CFR by Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairperson/CEO Nigerian Diaspora Commission, Abuja on Thursday 30 March 2023#OnwardTogether pic.twitter.com/pTEXczMgUu
— Nigerian Navy (@NigerianNavy) March 30, 2023
As for the image of Obi, it was taken from a photo he had shared on Twitter back in September 2022 (archived here). The original photo showed him with former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
“I deeply appreciate the opportunity to hold extensive discussions with President Olusegun Obasanjo earlier today on arising national interest matters,” Obi wrote in the tweet.
The image of the supposed UK Immigration official is taken from a screenshot of a scene in Season 3, Episode 9 of the Amazon Prime docuseries “Customs: Fighting Crime at the Border”. The docuseries, which follows UK custom officials, aired in 2010.
Moreover, Abdu-Rahman Balogun, a spokesperson for NiDCOM, said Dabiri-Erewa was not in London when Obi was detained and “not in a position to secure the release of any Nigerian suspected to be under UK interrogation.”