As Nigeria continues to battle the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in the last week reviewed many information and news online that are related to the spread of the virus and other issues.
Our findings show that most of the popular narratives that formed the bulk of interaction online both false and genuine revolved around the government and its agencies. Here are some of the Fake News that we fact-checked and our verdict.
Finance Minister Did Not Say Nigeria Lost N700 Billion in AGF’s Office Fire
On Wednesday, April 8, 2020, a section of the Treasury House, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), was gutted by fire. The fire outbreak which started on the third floor of the building was later put off by officers of the Federal Fire Service.
Few hours after the fire started, social media users began raising suspicion on the origin of the fire with some insinuating that the fire might have been staged to cover-up corruption by some officials in the management of the COVID-19 intervention funds.
A screenshot of a news headline began making rounds on social media with the claim that the Minister of Finance, in a press conference on April 9, had said the Federal Government lost the sum of N700 billion COVID-19 Relief Funds to the incident.
However, CDD’s investigation revealed that the story is false as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, did not say Nigeria lost N700 billion Naira COVID-19 Relief Funds in the fire outbreak at the Treasury House.
The fire outbreak only affected the capital unit of the Office of the AGF’s office where all the capital releases to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government are made.
5G network/ COVID-19: SSS never arrested Pastor Chris
On March 8 2020, the CDD spotted multiple posts shared online claiming that the State Security Service (SSS) had arrested the founder of Christ Embassy Church, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome.
According to the report, the pastor was arrested for misleading the public through his controversial sermon on the Fifth Generation Network (5G) and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) conspiracy theory.
The sermon televised to millions online and shared widely on Facebook sparked many reactions.
In a reaction to the claims, Nigeria’s secret Police have said that it never arrested Oyekhilome.
SSS spokesperson, Dr Peter Afunanya, dismissing the claims said: “DSS did not arrest Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, please.”
To further confirmed the story, our fact-checkers reached out to a top member of the church (Christ Embassy) who said the story is not true. ‘
The official who pleaded anonymity said: “In, fact, we just finished an online meeting with him about 15 minutes ago. Which of Pastor Chris did they arrest?’’
COVID-19: NCDC Did Not spend N1billion on SMS to Educate Nigerians
On April 8, 2020, the CDD spotted a screenshot of a news headline claiming that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had spent N1 billion on SMS sent to Nigerians as part of its enlightenment program on Coronavirus.
The Headline read: ‘’ Breaking: We have Spent 1b naira on SMS just to educate Nigerians – NCDC” trended on microblogging site, Twitter and Facebook.”
However, CDD findings show that the screenshot is from a fake news site, Reporters Press NG, which thrives on clickbait.
The site was created on February 8, 2020, with several unverified claims and headlines. Also, the NCDC has debunked the news.
Reacting to the viral headline, the NCDC posted on its official twitter account, that “While communication through SMS is a key part of our #COVID19 response strategy, this has been largely provided as in-kind support by Airtel Nigeria, MTN Nigeria and Globacom Nigeria’’
Lai Mohammed Never Said “No Nigerian is Hungry”
On March 4, 2020, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) spotted a news story on Opera News app claiming that the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lai Mohammed has said that no Nigerian is hungry.
The report was published with the headline: “No Nigerian is hungry, we have disbursed 100billion naira to poor Nigerians” – Lai Mohammed.
According to the report, the minister had said Nigerians are not hungry because the government have disbursed over 100 billion Naira to poor and vulnerable persons affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown all over Nigeria.
The viral report was posted on Facebook and shared over a hundred times and with several comments.
CDD fact-checkers reached out to the Minister who denied making the statement.
Mr. Lai said: “I never said that Nigerians are not hungry. The blogs are known as fabricators of fake news and their intention is to distract the government from its fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”
The CDD urges members of the public to verify every information before sharing it.