The world is going through one of the most turbulent times in human history. This has also been followed by enormous advancements in information and communication technology. In addition, internet users have the burden of dealing with a load of information while struggling to separate truth from falsehood.
Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria is going through an economic recession and an increase in insecurity on all fronts.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has made it part its mandate to keep the information ecosystem around West Africa safe from peddlers of falsehood. We do this through research and training of media practitioners, turning them into fact-checkers. We also counter viral misinformation and disinformation in the public domain with the aim to entrench a culture of truth and facts in public discourse.
In the last one month, Nigeria has seen an increase in terrorist activity and banditry in the northern part of the country with reports of kidnaps and attacks on communities leading to deaths and sorrow.
These incidents have led to an increase in the amount of information shared on the web and social media platforms. For instance, On Sunday, November 22, 2020, fact-checkers at the CDD spotted a claim published by Sahara Reporters that the Governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum’s convoy was attacked by Boko Haram terrorists.
According to the claim, the terrorists had ambushed the governor’s advance team on Saturday, November 21, at Ja’alta along Gajiram to Monguno Road.
The report also claimed that seven soldiers and members of Civilian-JTF were killed on their way to Baga in Kukawa local government area.
However, investigation Investigations carried out by fact-checkers at the CDD showed that the report that the Governor was ambushed by terrorists is false.
Denying the claim, Professor Zulum said he was not ambushed or attacked.
A statement by the Governor’s spokesperson, Isa Gasau, states that neither the Governor nor his convoy was attacked as claimed by Sahara Reporters.
Gusau said, “For the record, we write to quickly clarify that contrary to a ‘breaking news’ by an online news medium, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum was neither attacked nor was any component of his convoy attacked by anyone.”
Another viral online message claims the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) is allocating jobs to 50,000 Nigerian youths.
The second broadcast claimed that N10,000 would be distributed to Nigerians weekly in other to control the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the country.
Also attached to each message were links for further registration by interested applicants.
Fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development found these claims in the WhatsApp broadcasts messages to be an online scam.
The links provided are suspicious because when clicked on, the links further instruct any prospective applicant to share with additional nine persons. This is known as the tactic of scammers to defraud people online.
Further checks by the Centre show that this a method mostly used by online fraudsters to defraud citizens.
For the second week running, internet scams have continued to take the Centre stage of the ecosystem. This is not unconnected to the current state of the economy in the country and the high rate of unemployment. The economic crisis and the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the livelihoods of people has led to desperation with many delving into all sorts to earn a living.
On WhatsApp, people unknowingly distributed these claims by online fraudsters to friends and associates for them to apply. These claims in form of broadcast/ messages falsely make the public believe that the promoters have the means of increasing the wealth of those who make payments after filling forms made available – usually through links.
These scams also come in form of job scams too.
Some of the online scams usually shared by fraudsters and countered by CDD include:
COVID-19: Widespread ‘FG’s Relief Collation Form’ is a Scam
FACT-CHECK: FG Not Giving Out N3 Million Grant To Nigerians
FACT-CHECK: Can You Invest N25k and Get N50k Instantly Using winners Pay Investment Platform?
COVID-19: No, Former President Obasanjo never sent N5,000 to all Nigerians
CDD urges citizens particularly media organizations to fact check reports, from multiple sources, before breaking the news to the public.
You can forward suspicious messages for verification via +2349062910568 or contact us on Twitter @CDDWestAfrica
Center for Democracy and Development West Africa| CDD West Africa