CORONAVIRUS DISINFORMATION IN NIGERIA: FACTS FOR THE WEEK JUNE 29 to JULY 5, 2020

As the world grapples with the spread of the novel coronavirus, disinformation and misinformation around the pandemic continue to grow.

This week, fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development spotted dozens of such stories which we have fact-checked. We have outlined below the trending and important ones to get you informed and up to date with facts below.

Did Governor Yahaya Bello Say COVID-19 Is Not Real?

VERDICT: False and Misleading headline

On June 30, 2020, fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) spotted a report on an online blog, Observers Times, claiming that the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, said Coronavirus disease is not real.

The blog published the report with a headline: “COVID-19 Is Not Real, Some Are Using It To Create Fear, Panic, says Ajanah Died a Natural Death – Yahaya Bello”.

The Governor in the report also claimed that there is no case of COVID-19 in Kogi State.

FACT

Checks by fact-checkers at the CDD show that COVID-19 is real and it is spreading in Nigeria.

Further checks by the CDD revealed that Governor Bello while speaking at a 3-day Fidau prayer for late Justice Ajanah said the chief judge died of a natural cause.

At no point did Governor Bello mention that the disease is not real, he however said, the pandemic has become a tool used by many to create fear and panic across the country.

Read full fact check report here.

NCDC Did Not Blame Youths for the Rapid Spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria

VERDICT: FALSE

On Friday, July 3, 2020, several online newspapers and blogs published a report claiming that the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, accused Nigerian youths of spreading the deadly coronavirus across the country.

The newspapers and blogs include the Nation Newspaper, Opera NewsLinda Ikeji blog, PMNews and the Punch.

The reports said Dr Chikwe made the allegation during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja.

According to the report, Dr Chikwe said youths were responsible for the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

An online version of the Punch – the first newspaper to report the claim –  published the story with the headline ’NCDC blames youths for rapid COVID-19 spread.”

FACT

Checks by fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) show that the NCDC Director did not blame the youths for the rapid spread of the Coronavirus disease during the briefing. 

A review of his complete statement shows he was drawing attention to data available to the NCDC, which shows that Nigerians between the age of 20 and 40 years were the most infected demography.

Parts of his statement read, “As more people are infected across the world, you would have seen the numbers; it is increasingly obvious that transmission among younger people really, not children, but people aged between 20 and 40 as far as we know, are really driving the spread of this virus, but those that are bearing the brunt of it are people age 50 and above.”

Read full fact check report here.

Were 2 NCDC Isolation Centre Staff Caught on CCTV Engaging in Sexual Activity?

VERDICT: FALSE

On June 1 2020, fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) received multiple copies of a video via WhatsApp for verification.

The video was captioned “NCDC Workers in one of the Isolation Centres, they were busy making Love, not aware that the CCTV Camera was recording all their moves !!!’’

FACT

The people in the video spread widely on WhatsApp are not staff of the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC). 

In the video, the adults – male and female – can be seen engaging in sexual activities wearing aprons and with their heads covered. 

Checks by CDD fact-checkers show that the video did not originate from Nigeria, let alone COVID 19 Isolation Centre within the country.

Findings by CDD fact-checkers reveal that the video originated from Kenya.

The video is of two chefs who were making out while on duty. 

A news story which was published on Opera News hub reported that the incident took place on June 25, 2020, and that the two people (alleged couple) work as chefs in the same restaurant. 

The said video trended in Kenya and South Africa with social media users in those countries calling for sanctions against the adults.

Read full fact check report here on our here.

Have Apple, Google Silently Installed COVID-19 Tracking App on Your Phone?

VERDICT: FALSE

Many users of smartphones across Nigeria have been raising concerns about the claim that Apple or Google has inserted a COVID-19 tracking sensor to their phone without permission. People are forwarding the message on WhatsApp and Facebook and Twitter, warning that an application (App) has been developed to monitor people.


FACT:
Google recently added a new feature that reads “COVID-19 exposure notifications “. This new message appears when you go to the Google Settings on your Android smartphone, like the image below.

However, the new settings are not an App installed on people’s phones to track them or a COVID-19 sensor as you may have read on Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp messenger.


Android or IOS are operating systems that host different apps on a device. Just like other updates on the device, what Apple and Google just did is to update their Operating Systems with the framework which allows such an app to function once it becomes available and if you decide to install it.


What you see once you try to use the search engine is the setting for the App, which are in development across the world.
According to the framework developed by Google and Apple, you will have the option to download and install the App yourself from the respective app store and permit it just like you do with other apps installed on your devices.
You cannot enable COVID-19 Exposure Notifications until you have a particularly app installed on your phone and this cannot be activated until an app – which is not yet available – is downloaded.

Read full fact check report here.

Have Nigerian Scientists Discovered Vaccine for COVID-19?

VERDICT: FALSE

In the past week, several Nigeria media platforms published reports that Nigerian scientists had discovered a vaccine for Coronavirus (COVID-19).

One of the headlines, specifically from the Nigerian Guardian, read, ‘’Nigerian universities’ scientists discover a vaccine for COVID-19’’.

The claim was widely shared in Nigeria and reported by a section of the international media.

CLAIM

No, Nigerian scientists have not discovered a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the novel Coronavirus. 

On Friday, June 19, 2020, during a press conference, a group of Nigerian scientists under the COVID-19 Research Group led by Dr Oladipo Kolawole of Adeleke University, Ede, in Osun state announced that they have a potential candidate for a vaccine. 

While some news media outlets went with headlines that suggested a vaccine had been found for the novel coronavirus, what the scientists said at the conference was that they had found potential candidates for a vaccine. 

Kolawole, a specialist in Medical Virology, Immunology and Bioinformatics explained that the group had been working extensively by exploring the SARS-CoV-2 genome from across Africa.

According to him, the team selected the best possible potential vaccine candidates for the trial and also made the possible latent vaccine constructs.

What this means is that they now have the underlining foundation to start the development of a vaccine having assembled the genome (a genome is the genetic material of an organism) samples and the vaccine construct.

In a report published on June 23, 2020, Professor Olubukola Oyawoye, the Dean of the Faculty of Science at the Adeleke University, told BBC Pidgin that the claim on that scientists from the university have found coronavirus vaccine is not accurate. 

Oyawoye said what the press briefing sought to deliver was to state that research is ongoing at the institution to find a vaccine for coronavirus.  

Read full fact check report here


CDD is urging members of the public to read beyond headlines before sharing any news report, especially from blogs in the habit of using sensational headlines to draw traffic to their blogs.