The second wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the mutation of the virus into various variants, and the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination by several countries in Africa, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Ivory Coast has led to the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories around the vaccines.
According to medical experts, vaccination is the single most efficient way to reduce deaths and severe illness from COVID-19. For the world to fully beat the pandemic, all hands must be on the deck to fight misinformation arising from them.
On the other hand, the spread of disinformation, conspiracy theories and fake news surrounding vaccines is the single most effective way to keep the pandemic going.
In the last one week, online conversations have been dominated by vaccine production, its acceptance by the public and the administration. While one cannot deny that vaccines have side effects – all vaccines and medicines have some side effects – these side effects need to be constantly balanced against the expected benefits in preventing illness.
With the social media space flooded with various claims on the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) have continued to call for verification of all information before sharing.
FGN Did Not Buy WhatsApp Messaging App for 3BN
On March 10, 2021, the CDD spotted a post on Facebook claiming that messaging Application, WhatsApp, has been bought by the Nigerian Government.
The Facebook user claimed said the application was bought by the Federal Government of Nigeria at the sum of three billion (no currency was indicated).
Also, the post claimed that all users of WhatsApp should endeavour to leave the app immediately to another one (signal App) as they would now be monitored by the Nigerian government.
The claim read in part: “You will be tracked! Leave WhatsApp now! Go to Signal app now!” reads an excerpt from the post. Signal is an end-to-end encrypted instant messaging app.”
Checks by CDD show that contrary to the claim, the Nigerian Government has not acquired WhatsApp messaging app.
An investigation by CDD also shows that the post made on Facebook by a handler, “Best of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu” has been marked by the social media company as fake news.
Facebook in a reaction to the post said that the information made by the handler has been checked by independent fact-checkers and confirmed to be false.
A further check showed that the social media company in a response to AFP described the information as false.
On Thursday, March 4, 2021, fact-checkers at the CDD spotted a WhatsApp audio recording claiming that Sheikh Sharif Saleh made comments on the recent Sheikh Abduljabbar’s preaching suspension saga.
In the recording – done in Hausa – a commentator (claiming to be the voice of Sheikh Saleh) expressed disappointment on the decision to suspend the cleric from conducting preaching activities in Kano State.
He said information available to him indicates that Sheikh Kabara’s worship centre has been sealed off by the Kano State Government.
He said the sealing of the worship centre is a gang up against Sunni clerics, Darika and other sects.
The commentator continued: “The method used by the clerics sounds funny and embarrassing and any responsible person that knows about the matter will understand that he was treated unfairly because his statements were shortened and edited”
An investigation conducted by CDD on the viral audio clip established showed that as of March 11, 2021, Sheikh Shariff Saleh, has not reacted to the suspension of Sheikh Kabara as claimed in the WhatsApp audio.
Checks by the CDD also revealed that the voice in the audio circulated on WhatsApp is not Sheikh Saleh’s.
When contacted on the matter, Sheikh Saleh’s so, Engr. Almuntasir Ibrahim Saleh Al-Hussain told the CDD fact-checker that the claim in the audio is false.
Al-Husain said his father never said anything on the suspension of Sheikh Kabara.
“Well, I listened to the said audio clip that was trending on WhatsApp, and I can categorically confirm to you that neither the voice nor the content is Sheikh’s and even the message does not reflect Maulana’s opinion on this matter in any way,” Al-Hussain said.
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First Stop: Bulabulin Ngarannam community, here local community members are given the ownership to drive their community activities.