As most people try to adhere to medical guidance to prevent and mitigate the pandemic, the continued spread of disinformation remains a serious threat. 

Authorities and institutions are not just battling the Coronavirus pandemic but the added difficulty of disseminating false information which prevents people from taking the right steps to contain the spread of the virus.

This past week, we explored the trending narratives that have emerged from disinformation narratives in Nigeria, and some of the widespread false claims the Centre for Democracy and Development fact-checked include:

Federal Government announcing resumption dates for schools?

On April 7, 2020, CDD spotted reports published by several online platforms claiming that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) announced Monday, June 1, 2020, as resumption date for all Universities and Polytechnics in Nigeria. 

Following the Coronavirus Pandemic, FGN in March 2020, announced the closure of all schools in the country until further notice. 

According to the claim, the Federal Ministry of Education said, the closure is part of measures needed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These reports were found to be false. 

A statement by Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba, the Minister of State for Education said: “The Federal Government is not ready to put children at risk by opening schools.”

Nwajiuba further noted that, as announced by the president, sectors of the economy will be gradually opened after reviews and experts’ advice on the disease outbreak.

“Until that is done, we cannot foresee or immediately tell you when all the schools will be reopened,” Nwajiuba said.

FGN is yet to set a definite date for the opening of schools across the country. 

CDD is urging parents, schools, and students to disregard the rumour being peddled online by bloggers and on social media. Read our full report here

Huge crowd at the funeral for the Emir of Rano?

On Saturday, May 2, 2020, a viral video showing a throng of people at a funeral, alleged to be that of the late Emir of Rano, Alhaji Tafida Abubakar II, in Kano, spread on WhatsApp channels, twitter and Facebook. 

In the video, a large number of people were seen with a caption claiming it was a procession for the funeral of the Emir of Rano, raising fears over the disregard for social distancing as advised by health authorities and experts in the containment of the Coronavirus disease.

Kano state has unfortunately been the epicentre of false information.

However, as the number of deaths in the state has risen, there has only been more confusion with contradictory statements coming from government officials, the media and social media platforms.

Upon investigating the origin of the video, CDD fact-checkers found that the procession was from the funeral of a cleric, Mallam Goni Kolo, who died on the same day as the Emir of Rano. 

However, while Kolo’s funeral took place in Mafoni ward Maiduguri, Borno State, the Emir of Rano was buried in Kano.

Read our full report here

Trump’s claims on disinfectant and ultraviolet light

On April 23, 2020, US President, Donald Trump, in a press briefing at the White House, made two alarming claims about potential cures to COVID-19.

Trump in his latest claims alleged the possibility of destroying the virus either through the ingestion of disinfectants, or the use of ultraviolet light. CDD fact-checkers investigated both claims and found them to be false.

While it is well known that disinfectants are designed to be used on hard surfaces, scientists have advised against its use within the sensitive interiors of the human body. 

Also, warnings by manufacturers of these products clearly state that ingesting disinfectant puts one at risk of poisoning and even death.

Besides, responses from eminent experts around the world have disputed the claims. For instance, Robert Reich, a professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said Trump’s briefings on the novel virus are becoming dangerous. 

Also, in a quick response, Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol and Dettol, countered the US President’s claim.

RB, in a statement, warned that: “Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information”.

Trump’s second striking claim was about the therapeutic effects of light and heat, specifically referencing ultraviolet (UV) light in destroying the deadly virus. 

This was addressed in a statement by the WHO which counters multiple myths and warns people not to sterilise their hands with UV light since radiation can cause skin irritation.

Furthermore, in a conversation with CDD fact-checkers, the head of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr Patrick Dakum, explained that in fact, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours in aerosols and on surfaces and that “there is no evidence that sunlight kills the new coronavirus”.

He explained further that, UV radiation is present in sunlight and constitutes about 10% of the total electromagnetic radiation output from the Sun, which means that staying in the sun cannot destroy the virus.

It is clear that health messaging from Donald Trump will need to be approached more critically, and that listeners should be aware of the guidance of experts and follow expert advice. 

The CDD urges the general public never to ingest disinfectant or expose themselves to UV-light in a bid to destroy the virus.

Read our full report here

Kano Correctional Service Ready to Release Inmates?

On Saturday, May 2, 2020, CDD fact-checkers spotted a WhatsApp broadcast claiming that inmates who have served for more than three years without trial would be released by the Kano State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service.

The broadcast written in Hausa urged relatives to send details of inmates including case and court numbers to a number for further action based on “the directive issued by the President.”

The message read: “Anybody that has a relative in any of the correctional centres in any of the prisons and the person has stayed for more than three years without trial, just send the case number and court number of the person so we can get them out as directed by the President. Send the details to this number 08067139558.”

CDD fact-checkers contacted the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Correctional Service Kano state command, DSC Musbahu Lawan Kofar, who debunked the claim.

Kofar said: “As the public relations officer of the service in Kano I have been the one conveying information of the service and engaging with the public, and I have not given any announcement of that nature.”

He also warned that that the announcement never originated from the service.

Read our full report here

The CDD urges members of the public to disregard unverified information and refrain from spreading any form of disinformation across the social media platform.

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