FACT-CHECK NEWSLETTER FOR THE WEEK ENDING AUGUST 1, 2020

This week, Nigeria’s death toll from the Coronavirus reached 888 with a total of 43,841 confirmed cases across the country.

Despite the rising cases across the country, many Nigerians still do not believe the pandemic is real. False and misleading information and the communication gap between the people and the government has led to mistrust. Also, many Nigerians believe the outbreak of the disease is a hoax designed for the gain of politicians and government officials alike.

Furthermore, conspiracy theories about the virus have found its way into the smartphones of internet-savvy Nigerians.

This week, we have fact-checked some of the claims below:

Does Hydroxychloroquine Cure COVID-19?

Since Monday, July 27, a video of the United States of America-based physician, Stella Immanuel has continued to trend on almost all the online platforms.

The video first published by media outlet, Breitbart News, featured a group of people wearing white laboratory coats calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” at a press conference in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

In the video, Stella, a preacher makes a passionate argument about the use of hydroxychloroquine – a medication used to prevent and treat malaria – to cure Coronavirus disease.

According to the preacher and physician, she has used a combination of hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Zithromax (Azithromycin) to treat 350 patients who visited her clinic. 

Stella also argues that hydroxychloroquine cures Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 

“This virus has a cure, it is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” the woman claims. 

Also, in her claim, the US-based physician said face masks are not needed for the prevention of the disease which has ravaged the globe.

“You don’t need masks, there is a cure,” Stella said.

While Stella’s video has been viewed millions of times and shared by thousands around the world, Facebook has blocked her account for violating its rules.

The video also posted on her channel was also blocked by YouTube.

In a reaction to its action, Facebook said it removed Stella’s account and the videos for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19. 

FACT

In June 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients in the US.

The FDA said that mounting evidence shows the drug provides no clinical benefit and in some cases may cause heart-related complications.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization announced its plan to discontinue the use of hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir for the COVID-19 treatment plan. 

The global health agency said it was following the recommendation from the Solidarity Trials International Steering Committee established to find an effective COVID-19 treatment for hospitalized patients.

WHO said findings submitted by the committee show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care.

In a reaction to Stella’s video, Andrew McLachlan, who is the head of Sydney Pharmacy School at the University of Sydney said the physician’s reaction was emotion ridden.

“Passion and anecdote do not provide convincing evidence of safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating and preventing COVID-19,”.

“Good evidence to guide practice comes from carefully controlled studies, scrutiny of the results and peer review to ensure findings and claims are robust and correct,” McLachlan said

Also, with Nigeria being part of the clinical trial on hydroxychloroquine which commenced in March, the Health Ministry warned that the research is yet to show that drug is effective in the treatment of COVID-19.

Also, in June, a preliminary independent trial sponsored by LiveWell Initiative was conducted on the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as prophylaxis for COVID-19, in collaboration with frontline healthcare workers in Nigeria.  

The hypothesis testing was carried out among physicians, researchers, pharmacists and clinicians. 

According to a statement released by the chief executive officer of LWI, Bisi Bright, and published Punch’s HealthWise, 123 volunteers were involved in the study of which 110 were on prophylaxis and 23 on treatment.

Bright concluded that: “Although it has been proven that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are effective in the early treatment of COVID-19, more studies will be needed due to the small sample size deployed while quinine is effective in the advanced stage of COVID-19 including ICU,” she said.

Also, in reaction to the trending video of Dr Stella Immanuel, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control issued a statement cautioning the public. 

The Centre wrote on its verified Twitter account: ‘’Remember, there is NO specific cure for #COVID19. Some trial drugs show promising results but are yet to be validated for use. In Nigeria, the use of hydroxychloroquine is ONLY limited to clinical trials. Please #TakeResponsibility and avoid self-medication.” 

The Centre said there is ample evidence to show that Stella’s claim that the use of a face mask is not needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus is false.

According to NCDC, the wearing of face masks is recommended due to the role played by respiratory droplets in the spread of the virus paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies.

The NCDC said the studies show that cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.

There is currently no sufficient evidence to show that hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19 as alleged by Dr Stella Immanuel. 

Also, Stella’s claim that face masks are not needed to prevent the spread of the disease is not scientifically proven.

Information is very important. False information can lead people into taking steps and actions that have grave consequences such as self-medicating on hydroxychloroquine following this viral claim.

The Houston-based physician’s claims conflict multiple studies on the anti-malarial drug and advice from public health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Read full report here

Did President Buhari Meet 5 Katsina LGA Chairmen Over Insecurity?

On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) fact-checkers spotted a picture of President Muhammadu Buhari sitting with six people in a room.

The viral photograph shared on Facebook claims the President met with five Local Government Area chairmen of Jibia, Safana, Faskari, Danmusa and Sabuwa all in Katsina state over insecurity issues.

The picture with the Hausa caption created the impression that President Buhari discussed banditry and growing insecurity in his home state.

An investigation conducted by CDD fact-checkers shows that contrary to the claim widely shared on Facebook, those in the picture were not chairmen of Sabuwa, Safana, Batsari, Faskari and Danmusa LGAs of Katsina State.

The other men in the picture are African leaders who met with President Buhari during his visit to Mali on Tuesday, July 23, 2020.

The Africa leaders in the picture are President Muhammadu Buhari, Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and President Ibrahim Keita of Mali among many others.

CDD fact-checks also show that the African leaders met with President Buhari as part of the intervention to resolve the political crisis in Mali.

Read the full report here

FG Did Not Order Resumption of All Secondary Schools

On Monday, July 27, 2020, several blogs and online platforms published claims that the Federal Government had ordered all secondary school students to resume on August 4, 2020.

The reports mostly with the headline: “BREAKING: FG orders secondary schools students to resume August 4’’claimed that the Director of Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Education gave the directive for the resumption of schools.

The Federal Ministry of Education did not direct the reopening of all secondary schools in the country. 

The only directive given by the FG was for the resumption of examination classes – Junior Secondary School 3 and Senior Secondary School 3.

While the headlines say secondary schools to mean all students, a later part of the report acknowledged the fact that, ‘’Only students in exit classes are expected to resume, so that they can participate in the West African Examination (WAEC) exercise scheduled to begin on August 17, 2020.’’

Also, the statement announcing the resumption directive posted on the Ministry of Education’s Twitter page was captioned, ‘’ATTENTION: EXIT CLASSES TO REOPEN AUGUST 4TH, 2020. Secondary schools in the country are to reopen as from the 4th of August, 2020 for exit classes only.’’

The headline that all secondary school students have been directed by the FG to resume classes is misleading.

Only students in exit classes are expected to resume, to enable them to participate in the West African Examination (WAEC) exercise scheduled to begin on August 17, 2020.

Read full report here

Do not be quick to believe or even share news reports, especially when they come from gossip blogs and the pages of social media influencers and news pedlers.

CDD urges members of the public to always verify all information before disseminating them.

You can also forward suspicious messages for verification at

+2349062910568 or contact us on twitter @CDDWestAfrica.

#StopFakeNews #StopDisinformation