PREMIUM TIMES Report On Presidency’s False Rice Claim Shortlisted For Africa Fact-checking Award

Garba Shehu

PREMIUM TIMES’ journalist has made the shortlist of 2017 African Fact-checking Awards.

Samuel Ogundipe, a general assignment correspondent based at the investigative newspaper’s head office in Abuja was selected for his story on Nigeria’s rice production output.

He is amongst seven journalists across the continent who were shortlisted for the prestigious honor which rewards fact-based journalism that spotlights public officials who make claims that can not be readily substantiated.

Mr. Ogundipe examined a claim by the Nigerian presidency on the country’s position amongst world’s rice producers.

In the report, Garba Shehu, a spokesperson for President Muhammadu Buhari, had stated during a parley with university students on February 18 that Nigeria ranked second amongst world’s largest producers of rice — an achievement he credited to the Buhari administration.

“As I speak to you now, Nigeria just achieved the record of the second largest producer of rice in the world. The rice revolution just started a year ago,” Mr. Shehu, who was appointed shortly after Mr. Buhari assumed office in May 2015, said.

Samuel Ogundipe

The statement elicited widespread skepticism amongst Nigerians, with many playing up the paradox of how Nigeria could be producing such an immense quantity of rice at a time its prices were going through the roof at the market.

Mr. Ogundipe found Mr. Shehu’s claim to be incorrect after subjecting it to statistical rigor, using facts from institutions such as the National Bureau of Statistics, Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Richard-Mark Mbaram, an agricultural economist, also told PREMIUM TIMES at the time that Mr. Shehu’s claim could not be substantiated in “actual fact”.

“We’re not even producing enough to feed ourselves. Saying we’re number two is dangerous as it could make those tasked with addressing the challenges become complacent,” said Mr. Mbaram, who is also the editor of Agro Nigeria, an online-based platform with a primary focus on activities in the agricultural sector.

The African Media Initiative launched the awards in 2014 in partnership with the AFP Foundation, a non-profit media training outlet of the Agence-France Presse. The awards had been held annually since then.

In 2015, Ben Ezeamalu, PREMIUM TIMES’ Lagos operation head, won the award for his story on the legal age of consent stipulated by Nigerian federal laws.

Africa Check says it received a record 159 entries from 25 countries this year. Organisers also added the students’ category in this year’s edition.

Other journalists who made the list include:

Allan Olingo of Nation Media Group, Kenya, for his story: “Tourism, construction drive economic growth”.

Arison Tamfu of Cameroon Journal, Cameroon, for his story: “FEATURE: As Paul Biya Looks to Running Again in 2018, Has He delivered on his 2011 electoral promises?”

Arukaino Umukoro of PUNCH Nigeria Limited, Nigeria, for his story: “Incubators scarcity hampers deliveries in public hospitals.”

Dorothy Otieno (on behalf of Nation Newsplex Team) of Nation Media Group, Kenya, for her story: “Before you vote.”

Lungelo Shezi of, South Africa, for a story: “6 000 or 12 000? How many foreigners are locked up in SA prisons?”

Simon Echewofun Sunday of Daily Trust, Nigeria, for his story: “Fact check: Minimum electricity generation not 4,000mw as claimed.”

Winners and runners-up would be announced at a ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa, in November.