Claim: A LinkedIn user alleged that Orji Uzor Kalu, a serving Senator and former Governor of Abia State, is hiding stacks of money in his house.
Verdict: Video of an alleged stack of money linked to Orji Uzor Kalu, a serving Senator and former Governor of Abia state, is false. The alleged clip has been in circulation since 2019 and was originally crafted by Alejandro Monge, a Spanish artist.
From sensational stories about a “tribe where the bride’s aunt must have sex with the groom to test his potency – Bayankole Tribe”, to controversial pro-China-Russia propaganda riddled on his LinkedIn timeline, EkeneDiliChukwu Okafor, who described himself as an independent Journalist and Entrepreneur has shared several false information in recent times.
His latest video depicts stacks of cash piled in a room which, according to Mr Ekene, were discovered in the home of Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of Abia, a state in the southeastern parts of Nigeria. Mr Ekene shared alongside the video a short caption calling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to go after Kalu.
“EFCC needs to go after @Orji Uzo Kalu, former governor of Abia state. Look at how he stacked European currency in his house.”
Within 24 hours, the post attracted diverse remarks. While many users who commented on the post expressed doubts, others affirmed it, expressing satisfaction with the recent decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria to change the Nigerian currency.
One Twitter user, Temitope Kade, who probably believes the claim, sighed in resignation.
“Oh, my days!!! What a nation,” she remarked.
Marc-Oliver Nguenti, another user, described the post as fake news. In his view, the assertion is a made-up movie.
“Fake news!!! This was made up for a movie,” he challenged.
Orji Uzor Kalu is a Nigerian politician with a controversial past. He is a current Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District and Senate Chief Whip. The Senator was also a two-term Governor of Abia State from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2007.
In December 2019, a court of law convicted and sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment for N7.65 billion in fraud. However, on Friday, May 8, 2020, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that his trial was wrongly executed and freed him. Being a member of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the false allegation widely spread on social media to trigger public condemnation of Kalu and his party.
When the Nigerian Coalition of Fact-checkers’ (NCF) subjected the alleged video to analysis on the InVid video verifier tool, results showed the clip had surfaced in different contexts with a similar narrative.
In 2019, the video appeared in the Cameroonian social media space, alleging that the Cameroonian minister of defence was hiding money in his house and his wife was attempting to burn it before police discovered it. The claim referred to Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o, former Cameroonian minister of defence, suspected of embezzlement.
The same video also made headlines in Russia in the same year, alleging that Rauf Arashukov, a Russian Senator, had discreetly tried to burn money he had embezzled and stashed in his office. The contention came around the time when Arashukov was arrested on the accusations of murder.
However, none of these narratives was true. The actual story links back to Alejandro Monge, a Spanish artist who crafted a three-metre-tall sculpture of money stashed in a room. The art was titled the “European Dream,” and was entirely hand-painted to give it a money-like look. Since then, it has been displayed in the 3-Punts gallery in Barcelona and somewhere in Madrid, the Spanish capital.
Monge posted this video on his Instagram page and further debunked the heralding claims. His post, originally in Spanish, highlights the need for people to question whatever they see on the internet before believing it. He expressed dismay, adding that it is essential for people to know who first shared a post and the reason behind it before sharing it.
“Monge_art: It’s what the internet has that something is not knowing because it goes viral… and then no one knows what it is or to whom it belongs… thank you for sending me where you are going to see them from NY to WhatsApp groups all over the world. Well, if people knew it’s a sculpture and the notes are hand painted. @monge_art.”
In 2019, Monge told France24 that the way his art was depicted on social media came to him with mixed feelings. Admitting that, he felt flattered and, at the same terrified.
“When I saw that my installation had been misappropriated in Russia, I had mixed feelings about it. At first, I laughed a lot and was flattered that my sculpture could fool so many people, which meant it was realistic. But then, I started to get a bit afraid because it was connected with a scandal in Russia, and I didn’t want to be associated with that in any way,” Monge said.
He explained that his art speaks about modern society and money’s influence on almost everything people do.
“My installation is a commentary on modern society and how everything revolves around money. I believe that money is the god of contemporary society.”
Monge clarified that the money is not real and it’s, in fact, hand-painted.
“My sculpture is made up of about 500,000 hand-painted fake bills made out of resin,” he stated.
The alleged video depicting a room stashed with money said to be hidden by Orji Kalu in his house is mis-contextualised. Monge, a Spanish artist, originally shared the video on his Instagram page to showcase a piece of art he crafted as money stashed in a room. This claim is false.
This fact-check was done by members of the Nigerian Fact-checkers’ Coalition (NFC).