Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar DID say coronavirus was caused by corruption

The acting chair of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, is reported to have said that the coronavirus is caused by corruption.

He was speaking at the graduation of the commission’s detective inspectors course 5 cadets from the Nigeria Defence Academy on 18 February 2018.

His reported comments sparked online debates – especially on Twitter. The commission then tweeted a rebuttal, claiming a media report attributing the statement to him was “false and misleading”. 

They claimed that Magu had said: “Tackling corruption is a clarion call, given that corruption is a huge burden to the nation. It is worse than cancer, Ebola virus, coronavirus and all other deadly diseases put together.”

What did Magu actually say? We checked. 

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

An outbreak of a new strain, known as Covid-19, was identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

According to the WHO’s 20 February 2020 update on the outbreak, 75,748 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, 74,675 of them in China. There have been 2,121 deaths in China and eight outside China.

Commission deletes tweet

Several Twitter users replied to the commission’s denial with video evidence of its acting chair making the statement. 

A recording of the event shows that Magu said: “Your excellency corruption is the biggest strategy to humankind. Your excellency, corruption is worse than all the diseases now running about. And I strongly believe, your excellency, that even coronavirus is caused by corruption.”

The commission has since deleted the tweet, which labelled a news report of his statement “false and misleading”.

This is not the first time Magu has been in the news for linking corruption to a disease. In February 2018, he reportedly claimed that cancer was caused by corruption. 

‘Viruses are not caused by corruption’ – WHO

Tarik Jašarević, a World Health Organization spokesperson, told Africa Check that “viruses are not caused by corruption”.

A senior lecturer at the department of mass communication at the University of Lagos, Dr Ifeoma Amobi, told us that Magu’s claim could trivialise the coronavirus outbreak and confuse the public. 

“I see no reason why he would make such a statement. No doubt some people would feed on the claim. And when a verified cause of coronavirus is published, they would disregard it. It is very dangerous for a leader to make such a meaningless statement.” – Africa Check

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