No, Sultan of Sokoto didn’t say Nigeria’s first Covid-19 case was faked

“Let me say the truth and die, the Italian Coronavirus man was paid to act the drama – Sultan of Sokoto,” reads the headline of an article shared widely on Facebook in Nigeria. 

The claim is that the sultan, Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III, who is considered the spiritual leader of the country’s Muslims, said Nigeria’s first case of Covid-19 was a hoax. 

Sokoto state in northwestern Nigeria includes the emirate of Sokoto, formerly an independent Islamic caliphate. Did its sultan make this statement?

Article doesn’t support headline

Despite the headline, there is no further mention of the sultan in the rest of the 7 March 2020 article. (Note: The article’s website carries many suspicious links. Please be careful as malware could damage your computer or phone and compromise your privacy.) 

It gives some details of the Italian man who was “confirmed to be Nigeria’s first coronavirus case”, but doesn’t repeat the claim that he was “paid to act the drama”, or pretended to be sick. 

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control did confirm the country’s first case of Covid-19 on 27 February 2020, of an Italian man working in Nigeria. This was widely reported in the media, locally and internationally. As of 18 March, the NCDC has confirmed eight cases of the disease in Nigeria.

Sa’adu Abubakar has reportedly addressed the Covid-19 public health crisis. According to some reports, on 4 March the sultan asked his followers to pray and to practice careful personal hygiene to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. And a week later he urged the Nigerian government to address hunger, which he reportedly said was a bigger threat to Nigerians than Covid-19. 

But there have been no credible media reports of Sa’adu Abubakar disputing the first case of Covid-19. The headline of the article shared on Facebook seems to be clickbait, and is false. – Jennifer Ojugbeli


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