CORONAVIRUS DISINFORMTION NEWSLETTER MAY 23, 2020

Last week, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) fact-checked many misinformation and disinformation, which were spread across social media, and at community level.

The fact-checks included false reports on the trending Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria across the globe and some of the activities in Nigeria’s Presidency.

Below are some of the information fact-checked between May 17 and 23, 2020.

COVID-19 Lockdown: Did FG Announce Plan To Take Legal Action Against 3 States?

On Thursday, May 21, 2020, fact-checkers at CDD spotted a broadcast on WhatsApp claiming that the Federal Government (FG) has announced plans to take legal action against three states in the North.

The claim said the FG’s decision to file a suit against Borno, Adamawa and Gombe States follows the lifting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown imposed by the President across the nation.

According to the claim, the states acted against the directive of the FG to curb the spread of the disease.
Investigations by our fact-checkers show that reports that the FG announced moves to drag the three states to court is a mere rumour.

Reacting to the claim, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, told CDD fact-checkers that the FG never announced plans to sue any state for lifting the COVID-19 lockdown.

Mohammed said: “What I am aware of is that the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 called for a single national response. He never said the FG would sue any state government for lifting a lockdown.”

To buttress CDD’s investigations, a three-week lockdown necessitated by COVID-19 was eased by the Borno State Government on Wednesday, May 13.

However, the State Government warned that should the situation escalate; it would revert to the status quo.

The FG never announced its plan to file a suit against any of the three Northern States.

Read the full report here.

Professor Gambari did not resign his position as President Buhari’s New Chief of Staff.

On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, multiple online sources published a breaking news report with the headline ‘’BREAKING: Buhari’s new Chief Of Staff, Prof Gambari Resigns’’.
Professor Ibrahim Gambari was appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari following the demise of the former Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who died from Coronavirus (COVID-19) complications.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, announced Professor Gambari’s appointment at the Federal Executive Council meeting.

Contrary to the SGF’s announcement, the headlines of these reports are misleading.

While the headlines have been misconstrued by many on social media to mean Mr. Gambari resigned his position as the new Chief of staff, monitored activities within the Presidency by CDD fact-checks prove otherwise.

Also, the body of the reports rightly noted that he resigned from his previous position as Chairman of the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy, and Development (SCDDD).

Read the full report here.

Did President of Madagascar accuse WHO of offering $20 Million Bribe?

In a sensational report, various blogs have reported that the President of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) of offering $20 million as a bribe for the poisoning of the controversial COVID-19 Organics remedy.

The report shared on the internet, and various social media platforms, including WhatsApp, said the international organisation’s move to poison the herbal remedy made from Artemisia is because it was produced in Africa and not the West.

The claim was published on YouTube.

On May 14, 2020, a Tanzanian newspaper, Tanzania Perspective, printed articles headlined, “WHO offered $20 million as a bribe to ensure that the COVID-19 medicine poisoned – Madagascar President.”

Many reports used a snapshot of the newspaper as a reference.

COVID Organics (CVO) is a drink made from Artemisia, a plant used in treating malaria in Madagascar alongside other indigenous herbs, which have been promoted by President Andry Rajoelina to cure coronavirus patients within ten days.

In response, the WHO has asked for caution, saying the remedy should be passed through clinical trials to ascertain the claim.

The reports consistently referenced other statements made by President Rajoelina in an interview with French journalists, Christophe Boisbouvier from Radio France Internationale and Marc Perelman from France24.

CDD Fact-checkers reviewed the interview and did not find anywhere the President made the allegation of being offered a bribe. A detailed search of the internet shows there is no other report available online where President Rajoelina made the statement.

An English translation of the interview by the CDD fact-check team did not also reveal the claim of being offered $20 million. Even when probed by the interviewers to mention names, President Rajoelina used organisations instead. “No one will stop us from moving forward – not a country, not an organisation,” Rajoelina said in response to questions about the concerns raised by the WHO.

The Tanzania Perspective, the primary source of the story, is known for spreading misinformation and using sensational headlines. On April 14, 2020, they printed a front-page headline, “World Bank applauds Tanzania on anti-COVID-19 policy”.

Read the full report here.

NCDC Is Not Distributing COVID-19 Relief Funds To Nigerians

On Sunday, May 17, 2020, fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) spotted a WhatsApp broadcast informing Nigerians of plans in place by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to distribute Coronavirus (COVID-19) relief funds to the public.

According to the message, distribution of the relief funds follows a directive by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to the Central Bank of Nigeria to release the money to the NCDC for further transfer to Nigerians through their Bank Verification Number (BVN).

The message also advised Nigerians to stay at home and check their eligibility status for the fund by calling a specific mobile number provided.

“General Information, Due to the LOCKDOWN, the FGN has asked the CBN through NCDC to release some relief Amount to citizens who have valid ACT, BVN & ATM to enable everyone to stay at home. Check your eligibility status by callinig__07043196929. Best Regards,” the message read.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown announced by the FGN and various state governments, fraudsters have taken to different means of defrauding Nigerians.

Some of their antics include a claim that the FGN made plans for Nigerians to register on a dedicated website by providing vital personal information including bank details to the platform, a claim which CDD fact-checkers had countered in the past.

However, reacting to this recent claim, the NCDC has said that it is aware of the rumour shared on social media that the Centre will provide COVID-19 palliative to Nigerians during the lockdown.

Warning that the claim is false,” the NCDC advised the general public to disregard the rumour and discourage further spread.

The statement said: “NCDC’s mandate is to lead in the preparedness, detection, and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies.”

Also, a check on the activities of the government confirms that the FGN and CBN have not released any funds to the NCDC for the distribution of any money to Nigerians as COVID-19 relief. Read the full report here

The CDD urges the general public to desist from disseminating such disinformation and always verify reports from authorised sources.

You can also forward suspicious messages for verification at +2349062910568 or contact us on twitter: @CDDWestAfrica.