NEWSLETTER FOR THE WEEK OF June 15 TO JUNE 21, 2020

As Nigeria continues to experience an uptick in the cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) across states of the country, there has been increased dissemination of disinformation regarding the health crisis.

From proffering fake cures like the use of garlic, lime and ginger for both preventive and curative measure, to the conspiracy that linked the launch of 5G network to the pandemic, false information in Nigeria is stirring panic, weakening medical advice and used as a tool for scoring political points among the nation’s politicians.

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has remained at the forefront of countering the disinformation in Nigeria’s ecosystem.

Below are the false claims countered by the CDD this week

Did Oyo Government Announce Resumption of School Activities For JSS 3 And SS3 Students?

On June 15, 2020, fact-checkers at CDD spotted a report online claiming that the Oyo state government has announced resumption activities for junior and senior secondary students in examination classes.

The report headlined; COVID-19: “Oyo State Resumes Academic Activities for JSS3 and SS3 students” has gone viral and raised a lot of controversies on the social media space.

However, investigations by fact-checkers at the CDD show that the Oyo government’s COVID-19 task force announced ease of the lockdown issued by the state after it met with the state governor, Seyi Makinde.

One of the decisions reached between the task force and the governor includes the resumption of classes for Primary Six, JSS3, and SS3 students from Monday, June 29.

Further checks by CDD also show that students in critical classes (JSS3 and SS3) are to resume at the end of June 2020, to ensure they are well prepared for the public examinations ahead.

The schools are also to observe the COVID-19 guidelines that the task force released. 

These guidelines include that schools must ensure that stations for washing of hands are provided with the support of their Parents/Teachers Associations (PTA), while all students are to put a face mask compulsorily.

CDD fact-checkers can confirm that at the time of releasing this fact check on June 16, 2020, this claim is TRUE.”

Read the full report here.

Did Benue Lawmaker Donate ‘Goat Ropes’ To His Constituents?

On Sunday, June 14, 2020, Agba Jalingo, freelance journalist and blogger, tweeted a picture on his twitter handle @agbajalingo_ with the caption, ‘’Hon. Daniel Ukpera of the Benue State HOA donates  brand new colourful ropes to his community to help tie their goats.’’

Attached to the post were different photographs of Daniel Ukpera and some members of the community holding their goats with the ropes. The tweet was already shared over a thousand times with several replies and likes.

However, CDD investigation shows that Daniel Ukpera is not a member of the Benue State House of Assembly as falsely tweeted by Agba Jalingo.

CDD checks also showed that Ukpera had contested in the last election for Guma State Constituency seat in the Benue State House of Assembly Election under the platform of the Labour Party but lost it to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contestant.

Mr. Daniel Ukpera is not a member of the Benue State House of Assembly, as claimed by Mr. Agba’s viral tweet. 

While media houses have reported the correct information, Mr. Agba Jalingo, who was the first to report the story failed to correct or retract his viral story rife with false and misleading claims.

Read the full report here.

Did WHO Say COVID-19 Is Not Transmissible By An Asymptomatic Patient?

On Tuesday, June 16, 2020, fact-checkers at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) spotted a WhatsApp viral video. According to the video, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that asymptomatic Coronavirus patients do not transmit the virus to other people. 

The message accompanying the video of three minutes and six seconds read that there is a turning point as WHO has said that COVID-19 asymptomatic patients need no isolation.

The message also said that the world had been deceived into practising social-distancing and wear face-masks while millions of jobs and trillions of dollars were lost.

An Investigation by CDD fact-checkers revealed that the claim is hinged on a video of Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Technical Lead on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her comments in the video, Kerkhove said: “In the data that we have, it’s still rare that an asymptomatic person transmits onward to a secondary individual.”

The claim used Maria’s seven seconds response to justify that the international organisation has created confusion and deceived people – forcing them to adhere to several measures – since the disease outbreak.

Further checks revealed that Maria’s comment was blown out of context as shedid not say asymptomatic patients need no isolation and made no comments on wearing a face mask or maintaining social distancing.

In reports published by statnews on June 9, 2020, “Maria Van Kerkhove acknowledged that her use of the phrase, “very rare,” had been a miscommunication.  

Maria said she never meant to imply that, “asymptomatic transmission globally” was rarely happening, because that is yet to be determined.

She said COVID-19 carriers not showing symptoms can spread the virus, whether they ultimately feel sick or not. 

Read the full report here.

Did Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Mukwege Resign Over Directive To Declare All Illness Coronavirus?

Throughout the past week, several online sources, including a Nigerian Facebook page, NEWS, shared a viral post which claims Dr. Denis Mukwege, the joint winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, resigned as head of a local task force fighting COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The report said Dr. Mukwege resigned because he was directed to inflate numbers of Coronavirus cases in the country.

The claim reads: “He declares, “I cannot in any case dirty my Nobel Peace Prize for money, we had been ordered to declare any illness to be coronavirus and any death.”

According to the report, Mukwege was displeased that after more than 100 samples, none came out positive against the directive.

“I have a career to protect, and I am Congolese by blood. Getting rich by lying is a sin before God, I quit,” the reports added.

The All Africa news platform also aggregated this claim, shared by several sources on Facebook and other platforms multiple times, including on a Cameroonian blog Kiffa’s blog.

Checks by CDD revealed that Dr. Mukwege never made the above statement.

A press statement released by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, announcing his resignation from the response team, clearly stated reason for his decision.

He said the claim by the viral report was never part of his reason for quitting his position.

In responding to the claim, Mukwege said: “On the one hand, the impossibility of having in our province of RT ‐ PCR allowing to confirm the diagnosis of COVID + rapidly. The time required, of more than two weeks, to receive the results of the samples sent to the INRB in Kinshasa, constituted a major handicap for our strategy based on “testing, identifying, isolating and treating.”

‘’On the other hand, a loosening of prevention measures by our population, a denial of realities, the impossibility of enforcing barrier measures, the porosity of our borders with the massive return of thousands of compatriots from neighbouring countries without having been quarantined, decreased the effectiveness of our strategy.’’ Dr. Mukwege’s statement read in part.

Further investigation by CDD fact-checkers revealed that the purported claim is not on Dr. Mukwege’s official social media and websites.

CDD fact-checkers only found what can be termed as a rebuttal considering the absence of the statement attributed to him on his website and official Facebook page. 

It also said: “Please note that all statements or press releases posted appearing to be in my name, that does not appear on our social networks, or official sites (Panzi Foundation DRC, Panzi Foundation USA, Mukwege Foundation, and Panzi Hospital) are unauthorized and/or fraudulent statements.”

Reacting to the claim, Maud Salomé Ekila, the Communication Manager at the Mukwege Foundation in a statement, described the posts as “fake news.”

She said: “These are not Dr. Denis Mukwege’s words. It’s incredible that the media and people online share this false information when we have official accounts where his resignation was explained and justified in a statement.”

Read the full 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.