Claim: Fact-checkers at HumAngle came across a video of Mallam Bashir Ahmad Sani, a Sokoto-based Islamic cleric, claiming that coronavirus “was created to reduce [human] population”.
In the eight-minute video that has since been trending on Facebook and WhatsApp, the cleric tried to support the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 is a bioweapon to reduce world population by saying that virus “is not living things” therefore, “was created”.
Verdict: False, Misleading
Fact: HumAngle submitted the video to Dr. Abdurrazak B. Ibrahim, a lecturer at the Department of Biochemistry, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, to fact-check the claim and he replied thus:
“The first red-flag in the video is that the Malam started by parroting the chemistry of nucleotides clearly to stun his audience and create the false impression that he understands science and biology of virus.
“But he obviously doesn’t. Using scientific jargons is not the same as knowing them let alone drawing a conclusion as outrageous and dangerous as stating that viruses are created,” Abdulrazak said.
“Viruses have been around from the beginning of life on earth and have evolved to live in their hosts over millions of years. In fact, viruses are found in plants, animals and even bacteria.
“In humans for example, a significant part of our three billion units of DNA consists of sequences from descendants of viruses that infected our ancestors over millions of years.
“So, to advance the argument that viruses are not living organisms and therefore are created, is completely wrong. What we may say is that “viruses are not independent living organisms,” and that has been a subject of debate in classifying viruses as living or non-living things, with scientists divided on the subject,” he added.
However, the most outrageous statement from that video, according to Abdulrazak, is the charge that “viruses were created” to “reduce our population”. This is incorrect at least on two grounds that he explained:
“First, a recent comparative genome analysis (this is how scientists compare DNA of one organism against another, to know their degree of relatedness) conducted by researchers in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology of the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA, proved that the “SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, ‘is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus’.
“The authors showed that by looking at all possible sequences from where the virus may have been obtained and therefore ‘manipulated’. They then showed that there is no way this new virus would have evolved if it hadn’t naturally moved from its reservoir host (bat) to humans through an intermediary host.
“This intermediary host was later found to be pangolin as I will show. The genome data in this study convincingly proved what most biologists already suspected: our global invisible enemy arose from zoonosis enabled by evolution by natural selection. Here is the link to that article
“Second, remember I mentioned that viruses jump from one host to another. For example, right now, we all have viruses that have taken residence in our bodies over several years. Some of them we inherited.
“If, due to some change in environmental conditions or natural disaster this virus moves from us to another animal (sometimes it’s across different ethnic groups), that virus will mutate to try and survive in the new host. This is what can lead to disease.
“So, when a virus jumps from one host to a new host, a viral evolution that leads to severe diseases like bird flu, Ebola fever, HIV and SARS occurs. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, it has just been shown that that jump was from bat to pangolins and then to humans, leading to the emergence of the new coronavirus. Here is the link to that article”
The lecturer advised people peddling similar conspiracy theories to “refrain from making scientific statements about subjects in which they are not conversant with.
“Even within the scientific community, you see that people are always careful about drawing conclusion because science works with evidence that can be shown and replicated.”
Conclusion: The claim that coronavirus was created to reduce human population is baseless and false.
HumAngle urges people to disregard the conspiracy theory and listen to medical experts and scientists in this time of pandemics and Infodemics.