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Website deceives readers with fake testimony of N500,000 grant

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CLAIM: A WhatsApp Message claims UBA and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are giving out a 500,000 Naira grant.

This information is misleading as it originates from a questionable website fraudulently leading people to share its link.

Full Text

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries, including Nigeria, were forced to enforce the ‘stay home order’ which in a way contributed to the increase of fake news. As the lockdown became effective, Dubawa quickly shifted from fact checking claims relating to cure, spread, and who had tested positive to the virus to news of  COVID-19 relief grants .

The relief grants are presented as a kind of support supposedly given to citizens by the government to help sustain them through the lock down till normalcy was returned. In the interim, misinformation started circulating on social media, especially WhatsApp, informing people to register for varied amounts of money; from 5000 to 30000.

Now, over a year after Nigeria had its first case of Covid-19, grants-related claims have become prevalent.

On Wednesday 3rd of March, Dubawa received a circulating WhatsApp Message which conveys a testimony of a grant beneficiary.  A beneficiary claimed he had just gotten a grant from the United Bank for Africa (UBA) in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He further enjoined readers to apply through an attached link.

This WhatsApp Broadcast, unlike others of its kind, strikes differently as it comes in form of a testimony of a beneficiary which is likely to have more influence on readers. 

A click on the link attached to the post takes readers to a website ( Student Gist ) where the publisher explains what the grant is about and how to apply for it. The website stated that the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has started issuing out the application forms for an alleged N75billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund.

“FG launches application for N75 billion Youth Investment Fund at 5% interest, how to apply

The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, on Thursday, October 15, 2020, flagged off the application for the N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) recently approved by the Federal Government.”

Verification

In the bid to ascertain the veracity of the claim, Dubawa identified a major red flag; an inconsistency between the Message shared on WhatsApp and the information on the website it directs readers to, thereby, producing two claims. 

The WhatsApp Message announces a N500,000 grant by UBA and CBN while on the second website, the focus is on an alleged N75billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the CBN.

Although the website’s About Us page provided no result, its homepage shows it gives updates on ‘latest jobs in Nigeria.’ Dubawa analyzed the website, using the ScamDoc tool. While it has a 76% trust score, the tool advised that more investigations be carried out on the website. 

Dubawa also found that on the 22nd of July, 2020, the Federal Executive Council approved the sum of N75, 000,000,000.00 (seventy five billion naira) for the establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund for the period of 2020 – 2023. The investment plan which is an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD) aims to create 500,000 jobs, to curtail the issue of unemployment amongst the youth, and improve access to finance for youth and youth-owned enterprises for national development. The plan targets young people between the ages of 18-35 years. 

Dubawa, on the CBN website found a pop-up, redirecting to the actual website where interested youth can register for the fund. 

Screenshot of the pop-up which contains details on NYIF on the CBN’s website 
Screenshot of the original website to register for the fund

Further, calls were made to the Ministry, where Mr John Joshua Akanji who is the minister’s Special Adviser (Media) acknowledged the existence of the N75 Billion NYIF and told Dubawa he is unaware of any website besides the ministry’s. In his word, “I don’t know about any website, the only authentic website I know is the ministry’s website.”

Therefore, while it is true that there is an existing fund from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, the website sharing the information and asking people to register through its platform is fake. Hence, the information is False.

In most cases, it is impossible to trace forwarded information on WhatsApp to its original source, but for this particular claim about the alleged 500,000 grant from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the United Bank for Africa, Dubawa identified that it is a product of Student Gist.

Dubawa found that after registering  for NYIF through the imposter site, applicants would be asked to share the ‘opportunity’ with 15 groups or 15 friends on WhatsApp.

Screenshot of the website urging applicants to share its link to 15 WhatsApp groups or friends after registration.

Dubawa shared the link to its personal WhatsApp for a test run and the process produced the same texts as it is in the viral claim.

On going back to the site, it identified that this researcher had only shared once as a message popped up on the screen to remind the user that his  application is only successful after sharing to 15 groups or 15 friends.

Screenshot showing a pop-up text reminding applicants to share the link to 15 WhatsApp groups or friends.

In essence, this experiment shows how fake news purveyors fraudulently lead people to spread misinformation and drive traffic to their websites.

Nonetheless, Dubawa directed calls, a text and a WhatsApp message to CBN and UBA but none were attended to. This researcher, however, visited UBA’s Aminu Kano Crescent branch in Abuja. There, Mr Mathew A, the Customer Service Manager told Dubawa he’s unaware of any N500,000 grant and suggested the viral message may be fraudulent. 

Conclusion

Findings show that while the National Youth Investment Funds exists, there’s no alternative link for application order than the one provided by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development.

It is also important to note that there is no N500,000 grant anywhere from UBA, the WhatsApp Message is a product of a fraudulent website seeking attention through spreading fake news, rendering its claims FALSE and MISLEADING.

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