Back to Africa Check

No evidence Nigerian man hacked US immigration site

A Nigerian man has hacked a US government site and given his family and friends “permanent citizenship”. That’s the claim in a story circulating on social media since December 2019.

Different versions have been shared on Facebook, some giving details.

Over 80 Nigerians had been arrested in the USA for internet fraud and other online crimes during the fourth quarter of 2019,” the story goes.

“One of them is not just a scammer. Abaeze Atuche is a hacker and he had done something that no hacker had ever attempted to do before.

“Atuche hacked the US government and gave all members of his family and 15 of his friends permanent American citizenship.”

Most of the posts show a man being escorted by someone wearing a vest with “FBI” on it. The FBI is the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. They also show the seal of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Is this crazy story true?

Name not on list of Nigerians arrested for internet fraud

In August 2019 US prosecutors charged 80 alleged cyber scammers, 77 of them Nigerian, in a $46 million internet fraud case. Law enforcement led by the FBI arrested 14 of them.

The charges and arrests were widely reported.

“The indictment alleges that the defendants and others used various online fraud schemes, including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly, to defraud victims out of millions of dollars,” Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper said.

But the name “Abaeze Atuche” is not on list of people arrested. And there have been no reports of any US government website being hacked. 

A Google reverse image search of the photo of the man in the story led to a video by the US-based ABC News about the arrest of the 14 people. But there is no evidence his name is Abaeze Atuche. 

Story first published as satire

And further searches made it clear that the story first appeared on South African website Ihlaya News on 11 December. 

“Ihlaya News” roughly translates, from isiZulu, as “crazy person news”. The site’s tagline is “nuusparodie waarvan jy hou”, Afrikaans for “news parody that you like”.

Africa Check has debunked other stories first published as satire on the website, but shared more widely on social media as though they were real. 

Like everything published by Ihlaya News, this story is also made up. – Jennifer Ojugbeli


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.