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Old photo shows Nigerian murder suspect, not MTN student trainee arrested for settling customers debts

IN SHORT: A number of Facebook posts circulating in Nigeria claim that an MTN trainee has been arrested for paying off customers' debts. But the photo in the posts is of Jeffrey Okafor, a Nigerian who was convicted of murder in the UK in 2015.

"The IT student who allegedly cleared all MTN users' debt has reportedly been arrested," reads a post on Facebook, published 10 December 2023.

The post features a photo of a man with his face blurred, flanked by a man and a woman in Nigerian police uniforms. 

Industrial trainee (IT) students are Nigerian students currently undergoing industrial training in their chosen course of study. 

In November 2023, MTN Nigeria experienced a technical glitch and some users had their accumulated airtime debts cancelled.

Most telecoms companies in Nigeria allow their customers to borrow airtime and repay on their next subscription. 

The claim that an IT student was arrested by MTN went viral after the technical glitch.

The same claim was posted here, here, here, here and here.

But is the man in the picture the student trainee responsible for the MTN mishap? We checked.

MTNArrested_False

Photo from 2014

A reverse image search led to a 2014 post with the same image on X (formerly Twitter), posted by the Nigeria Police Force. 

The young man in the image was Jeffrey Okafor, a 23-year-old fugitive who fled to Nigeria from the United Kingdom before being arrested and extradited back to the UK. 

The British High Commission in Nigeria also announced in 2015 on X that Okafor was convicted of murder in the UK.

Nigerian media organisation Premium Times also reported in November 2015 that Okafor went on trial for the murder of a teenage university student in the UK capital London. 

A 2015 ITV report said Okafor received a minimum of a 17 years jail sentence

'A system glitch'

MTN Nigeria said the reported cancellation of airtime debt owed by customers was a "system glitch". The company also said the glitch had since been fixed.

An MTN Nigeria statement reads, in part: “MTN Nigeria Communications Plc can confirm a system glitch impacting balance enquiries. As a result, some customers may receive error messages showing that their balances have been cleared.  

Meanwhile, there have been no reports of any arrest of a student trainee for clearing MTN users' debts. Fact-checking the claim could help prevent the spreading of unverified and sensationalised news on social media.

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