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SPECIAL REPORT: Challenging Yahaya Bello’s Covid-19 Disinformation

Pastor Enoch Adeboye, a respected cleric in Nigeria created a major concern for officials promoting adherence to global health protocols and public vaccination against the coronavirus when he publicly endorsed the activities of Yahaya Bello, a sitting governor in Kogi state, North Central Nigeria.

The pastor who visited the Governor late last month at the Government House in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, said the actions of Yahaya Bello towards Covid-19 show that the Governor “is a man of faith,” but conversely, the Governor has on several occasions engaged in misinformation campaigns and dangerous claims about covid-19 and the vaccines. 

We reproduce some of those claims here and fact-check them.

 Claim 1: In a video shared on the messaging app, WhatsApp, and microblogging site, Twitter,  Yahaya Bello repeatedly downplayed the effect of covid-19,  calling it a “common flu.”  The Governor further claims that “90% of the noise about covid is around political and financial…gains  and the remaining 10% is common flu known as cold.”

Bello encourages people with known Covid-19 symptoms like cold and catarrh to “take garlic.”,  a claim that is continuously being shared to this day.

Verification: In debunking the Governor’s claim that garlic cures covid-19, we first confirm the authenticity of the video by running a reverse video search using inVID, an online video verification tool. The search takes us to the official Facebook page of the Governor. The video now has about seventy thousand views, with about seven hundred comments and more than two thousand reactions.  

Having verified the authenticity of the video, we begin debunking the claims by entering the keywords ‘garlic+covid+WHO’ into google’s search engine. Our search takes us to the website of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Addressing the claim on the organization’s ‘Science in 5’ campaign run on WHO’s website,  Dr Sylvie Briand,  Director Department of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness of the WHO said;

“So far we have no evidence that garlic is a treatment for this disease. Some studies are studying it but again we need to crosscheck the different studies before making any recommendation about garlic. What is for sure is that the abuse of garlic is not good.” She said

COVID NOT JUST POLITICAL NOISE

Covid-19 has so far shown itself to be more than just “political and economic” noise- it has caused ruins and shut down nations and economies.

On the human side of things, The WHO  coronavirus dashboard shows almost 170 million confirmed infections (as of 30th May 2021)  and more than 3 million deaths (as of 27th May 2021). Also, data from the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) shows that Nigeria has recorded about 166 thousand confirmed cases and a little over two thousand deaths. 

The virus has also claimed notable politicians and businessmen in Nigeria, including Abba Kyari, the then Chief of Staff to President Muhamadu Buhari, who Bello mentions in the video, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, former Governor of Oyo State, Waheb Adegbenro, the Commissioner for Health in Ondo State amongst others. 

CLAIM 2:  The Kogi State Governor is seen in a widely circulated video claiming that the Covid-19 vaccine is being used to introduce diseases that will kill people. Governor Bello in the video discourages citizens and residents of his state from taking the vaccine.

His words; ‘’They want to use the vaccines to introduce the disease that will kill you and us. God forbid!”

Bello who is a graduate of Accounting further questioned the swiftness with which the Covid-19 vaccine was produced.

“These vaccines are being produced in less than one year of COVID-19. There is no vaccine yet for HIV, malaria, cancer, and for headache,” he said amidst a crowd of his supporters. 

Verification: The video is sourced from the YouTube page of the popular Nigeria news platform, Sahara Reporters. Bello seems to be addressing a crowd of supporters in what looks like a political rally. 

As to his claim on the vaccine causing illness,  checks on the website of the Center for Disease Control, CDC, the United State’s health protection agency, shows that his claims are false. The CDC insist that approved Covid-19 vaccines are safe and that it helps “our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes Covid-19 without us having to get the illness.” Although some persons who got the virus might develop feverish symptoms, the CDC explains that it is a sign that the body is now building immunity for the virus. 

WHY SO FAST AND HOW?

Entering the query ‘Why was the covid vaccine developed so quickly?’ on the google search engine will bring up many results, including a University of Chicago news explainer of how they managed to have a vaccine in such a short period. Researchers from the university explained that a combination of hugely available resources and previous research on the Previous research in the One MERS vaccine (MVA-MERS-S) played a part in making the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The CDC insist that all Covid-19 approved vaccines followed the process for the development of vaccines. 

 


This publication was produced as part of IWPR’s African Resilience Network (ARN) programme, administered in partnership with the Center for Information Resilience (CIR), the International Center for Investigative Reporting  (ICIR) and Africa Uncensored.

One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Ita

    What an interesting read.

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