Nigeria: Fake News Almost Ruined My Business - Food Vendor

28 November 2020

The food vendor expressed shock at the fake news people shared about her.

A food vendor, Chikaodili Nwankwo, 35, has narrated how fake news almost ruined her petty business.

Ms Nwankwo lives in Awka, the Anambra State capital, where she sells cooked food for a living. She recently lamented the impact of fake news on her business.

Ms Nwankwo has been a food vendor in Ifite-Awka for11 years, selling varieties of food alongside her family without hitches, until recently, when stories began to circulate that she makes her food with water used to bathe corpses from an unnamed mortuary.

"I travelled for a burial in my hometown Ohaozara to return on Wednesday. On returning, my neighbours approached saying my name was all over the place. Initially, I thought it was a joke or my children had done something not until they began to narrate to me how rumours were making the rounds that I had been arrested by the police for cooking with water from corpses."

Ms Nwankwo, who sounded jittery, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday that she was still in shock and has not been able to eat well since she received the news.

"I have been selling on the table here in Royal Bed for 11 years with my husband and children, people knew me even before I started this business, they see where I fetch water from always... it is not hidden," she said.

She said she and her husband used to be cleaners at Royal Bird Hostel, a privately-owned student's accommodation for Nnamdi Azikiwe University students until students came together to help her start the food business.

As the news went round about Mama Tee or MummyTee as she is popularly called by students, with so many people sharing and resharing on social media platforms without verifying, a few students and ex-students who know her began to debunk the news.

Knowing how much harm this could do to her business, this group of young people came up with a hashtag PatroniseMummyTee to get people to patronise her food business. They also raised funds for her. As of the time of filing this report, N125,000 had been sent into her account.

Stanley Okeke, an alumnus of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Disc Jockey, popularly known as DJ Hotswagz, who is one of those raising funds on her behalf said, "I felt for the woman after seeing the viral video of her cursing the people who were peddling rumours about her business. I felt she needed a change of business after this."

"I never knew her until this happened," he said.

Another alumnus, Chukwunonso Ihezie, said he got involved because he believed that the only reason why anyone would come up with such a story to discredit the woman was because she was good at what she does and so she deserved all the support.

The group did not stop at raising money for her, they also mobilised support for her and were present on November 26 to buy her food.

Ogalanya Edwin, who has lived with MummyTee since 2018, said, "she does not have a kitchen where she cooks, she prepares everything in front of the lodge. She recently moved out of Royal Bird because of rent issues."

"This is very sad because this is a woman we all know has been suffering for years, with little or no help. She fries Akara (bean cake) in the morning and cooks rice and the rest in the evening. Her husband is a bricklayer," he said.

Ms Nwankwo was full of gratitude for the students when PREMIUM TIMES spoke to her Thursday night.

How it started

On Saturday, November 21, news on various websites had it that a certain Gloria Edet was arrested in Akwa Ibom for allegedly cooking with water used in bathing corpses.

According to the reports, she was arrested after being exposed by an unnamed mortuary attendant who claimed she owed him.

Not long after this report, many ex-students of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University shared posts of how MummyTee had been arrested for cooking with water used in bathing corpses.

It is not clear how the misinformation started or whether there was a deliberate twist of the story to ridicule MummyTee.

Another narration was that it was a Mama Tina also known as MummyT in the same area that was arrested.

Both narrations, largely shared on WhatsApp, turned to be false.

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