Dozens of Nigerian news outlets and social media websites in the last couple of days have been discussing the possibility of a mass coronavirus outbreak after reports claimed that a Nigerian Uber driver, who contracted the COVID 19 virus while driving around an Italian man has threatened to spread it in the country unless his family is paid $275,000.
The extortion threat by the Nigerian Uber driver created quite a scare among the citizens.
It all started after an Italian man was confirmed to be Nigeria's first coronavirus case. The Italian businessman arrived from Milan and traveled all over Lagos and another state for two full days before he developed a fever and was isolated.
The case saw a knee-jerk reaction from authorities in Nigeria who are now trying to trace everyone who arrived on the same flight.
An Aljazeera report retracing the journey of the infected Italian national found that the first coronavirus COVID 19 patient in Nigeria arrived on February 24 on a Turkish Airlines flight that had a connection in Istanbul and Akin Abayomi. He stayed in the Lagos state before he arrived in the neighboring state of Ogun on February 25.
He developed a fever and body aches on the afternoon of February 26, following which he was put in isolation in Yaba.
Even as authorities were grappling to contain the spread, a Nigerian Uber driver on Twitter that he had driven the coronavirus-infected from Lagos.
The Twitter user gave his name as Olugbenga Bodunrin. He made the disclosure Friday morning on Twitter. The announcement was made via his handle: boldyemi @boldjohnson07.
In the tweet, he wrote: "I had contact with the Italian citizen the day before yesterday. Am an uber driver i picked him at the airport. We talk, gist and laugh together. We even dine together. My name is Olugbenga Bodunrin. 08136464040."
It revealed that he was asked to go to the hospital where he was also diagnosed with the COVID 19 virus. However, he has now fled the isolation and escaped from the hospital and threatened to spread the virus unless his family was paid 100m nairas ($275,000).
A BBC reported now has established that the claim was false as the original post had appeared on a fake account of the private Africa Independent Television (AIT) network, which has now released a statement saying the page was not its official Facebook page.
The fake claim posted on Twitter also included a photo of the driver and named him as one Adewale Isaac Olorogun. The man in the picture has been identified as Jude Ikuenobe who told BBC that the fake report has caused him much distress and there are people who are ready to harm him.
"I haven't been moving around on my own. Anywhere I go, I'm moving with friends and family."Ever since [the post went viral] it has not been easy for me to cope."