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No, the sister of a ‘notorious’ Nigerian kidnapper hasn’t made a statement defending him

IN SHORT: Following the arrest of a kidnapper in Kaduna state, posts on social media in Nigeria have speculated about the man’s ethnicity. But there is no evidence that his sister waded into the fray to defend him. 

Several Facebook accounts in Nigeria are posting what they claim is a statement from a kidnap suspect’s sister, saying her brother was paid to act as a kidnapper to “dent image” of the Igbo tribe.

These posts follow the reported arrest in January 2024 of “notorious kidnapper, Chinaza Phillip” by police in Kaduna state, northwest Nigeria.

There has been a surge in the reported cases of kidnapping in Nigeria. According to the International Centre for Investigative Journalism, more than 380 people were kidnapped in the country between 1 December 2023 and 3 January 2024.

Phillip was arrested alongside other kidnappers, who the police referred to as his gang members. 

Controversy followed the arrest as some Nigerians debated over Phillip’s alleged ethnicity. It is in this context that posts claiming to quote a statement by his sister have emerged on social media.

One example was posted by a page with over 490,000 followers on 20 January. The post includes a screenshot of what appears to be another social media post and photos of a woman and Phillip.

The sister’s alleged statement starts: “My brother is not a kidnapper, he was paid to act as one to dent Igbo's image, he first contacted me and told me of the gist, I told him not but I did Not know he later accepted the offer.”

The statement was also posted here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

But did “Chinaza’s sister” speak out and is this her, pictured? We checked.

NigeriaKidnapper_False

Statement faked, photo shows South African media personality

There have been no reports of such a statement from any credible media platforms in the country. Considering that the media widely covered Phillip’s arrest, we would expect his sister speaking out to have made the news.

Africa Check then carried out a reverse image search of the photo of the woman in the viral posts. We found it posted to a blog in April 2016 and labelled “ayandathabethe_”.  

We then discovered that Ayanda Thabethe is a South African actor, presenter and model, reportedly born in KwaZulu-Natal province in 1986. 

We thought it likely that the woman pictured in the post about Chinaza Phillip was in fact Thabethe, and we then found the exact photo, posted by her on Instagram in 2016. Thabethe posted another photo of herself wearing the same top and hairstyle the same day.

We found no evidence of any link between the South African media personality and Phillip. We reached out to Thabethe to confirm this, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Most of the posts with the faked statement link to a blog called Igbo Times Magazine. This blog has been caught several times spreading false claims.

False claims linking individuals to criminals could have serious consequences, including damage to their reputation and harassment.

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