COVID19 and Snake Oil Salesmanship in Nigeria


By Leo Igwe

As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, and the search for a vaccine continues, many people are gullible and are easily swayed by peddlers of cures or solutions. There is so much fear and uncertainty in the communities. People are hoping for some miracle or magical remedy. However, charlatans are having a field day in places such as Nigeria. They are marketing all sorts of concoction and treatment even as scientists are still trying to understand the nature of the virus. Quacks are mining people’s desperation and vulnerability. Snake oil salesmanship is pervasive. Incidentally at the forefront of the health care fraudulent schemes are pastors and churches, and other marketers of spiritual solutions.

Recently, a pentecostal pastor, Apostle Suleman, claimed that he could heal COVID19 patients. He appealed to the government to allow him into the isolation centers so that he could exercise his faith healing powers. Apostle Suleman has been challenged to demonstrate his faith healing abilities. He has been asked to heal a COVID19 patient and get five thousand dollars. However, this pastor has yet to accept the challenge to heal a patient under agreed medical and scientific conditions.

Meanwhile, another Pentecostal pastor has come out with a spiritual solution to the pandemic. This pastor goes by a Facebook name, Goodheart Val Aloysius, also known as My Father My Father. Aloysius is marketing an anti COVID19 oil which he claims would provide people with spiritual immunity against the virus. Aloysius, who is also the owner of the Father’s House International Church in Calabar, Cross River State, is a witch hunting pastor. On his Facebook, Pastor Aloysius declares: “THE SOLUTION IS HERE!!!” Then he goes further to say: “Get this COVID-19 PREVENTION OIL and gain spiritual immunity to the deadly pandemic with a seed of faith of 100 USD (100$)”.  A hundred US dollars is about forty thousand naira.

Faith healing claims are forms of medical quackery. They undermine evidence-based efforts and guidelines for the management of the coronavirus and other health problems. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, faith healing propositions confuse and misinform the people, and get them to conduct themselves as if there are cures and solutions when none exists. As in the case of My Father My Father, these faith remedies are not free. They cost money. In fact, these spiritual goods are devices that these charlatans use to extort money from desperate individuals. NCDC should take all necessary measures to check the proliferation of faith healing schemes and help bring these snake oil salesmen to book.

Image Credit: Nandip Bongfa Vongwap.


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