A video of a man wearing neck and back braces and walking with the aid of crutches has circulated widely on social media with claims that it shows Nigeria’s suspended chief accountant, Ahmed Idris, who is accused of money laundering. The posts allege that Idris pretended to suffer spinal cord injuries at a recent court hearing but was later caught on camera leading a prayer session without any support. However, AFP Fact Check found the video was filmed in 2021 and shows a Nigerian activist, not Idris.
Nigeria's anti-graft agency arrested Idris on May 16, 2022, over his alleged involvement in financial misappropriation amounting to 174 billion naira (USD 419 million).
According to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, the claim started circulating on June 1, 2022 - the same day that Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) released Idris from custody.
The earliest version, shared on Instagram, featured a caption reading: “Accountant general that pretended that he has spinal cord injury at the court but not knowing that CCTV cameras were all over”.
Screenshot of the false Instagram post, taken on June 2, 2022
The logo of Nigerian broadcaster TVC News can be seen in the top-left corner of the video, along with a text overlay saying “Nigerians come and see the evil act in that country, please watch till the end (sic)”.
Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on June 2, 2022
Nigeria has witnessed several cases of officials collapsing while they were being investigated for corruption. They include ex-aviation minister Femi Fani-Kayode slumping in EFCC custody in 2016 and former Nigerian lawmaker Dino Melaye collapsing just before entering a police van in 2018. Some Nigerians have expressed the belief that the accused figures put on shows to gain public sympathy and evade trials.
However, the video circulating on social media is unrelated to Idris’ recent detention.
AFP Fact Check traced the source of the video by searching for the TikTok user handle displayed on the top left-hand corner, “ngozi110”.
We found that the footage was originally published by this user on March 17, 2022 – around two months before Idris was detained.
The original TikTok post does not mention Nigeria's ex-chief accountant.
Screenshot of the TikTok post, taken on June 3, 2022
Further research showed that the clip is a screen recording of a popular television show on TVC News called "Journalists’ Hangout". At the end of the video, renowned Nigerian editor Babatunde Otitoju can be seen on set alongside two other journalists, including the show’s anchor.
AFP Fact Check found the broadcast in the archives of TVC News on YouTube. The exact scene can be seen 17 minutes into the TV report, which was published on YouTube on March 24, 2021. It explains that activist Mahdi Shehu - the man seen in braces and crutches - was on trial over accusations of defaming the governor of Nigeria’s northern Katsina state, Aminu Masari.
Shehu is a Katsina-born activist and anti-government critic known for exposing alleged corruption practices by the state government.
There is no evidence Idris recently suffered any spine issues. AFP Fact Check found no credible Nigerian media reporting about any purported spinal cord injuries.