On Friday, the social media was upended by a couple of screenshots showing a certain ‘Aniekpeno Akpan’ as he used his account to teach other users “how to molest an 8-10 yrs old girl”.
“Get closer to the parent,” he had recommended on a closed Facebook group called “YabaLeftOnline Ward!”. “Get their trust,” he continued. “Always buy her sweet. Always play with their hairs when the parent are away… Buy her sweets and lollipops. Play porn to her…”
Some called him a bastard. Many called him a pedophile, while equally moving for his arrest and imprisonment ― or even capital sentence. But not many have bothered to give him the benefit of doubt or hear his side of the story.
In a conversation with the ICIR, Akpan has said he was a victim of cyber attack and he was impersonated by an impostor. He said he believes no one is free from cyber attack, and he is still trying to figure out who the culprit is.
He also confirmed the information on his new Facebook account. According to him, he is a fresh graduate of Educational Communication and Technology from the University of Calabar. He worked at the Cross River Broadcasting Commission (CRBC), in 2017, before he left to complete his academic programme; and he is planning to return to the organisation after his final school clearance.
“I have lived all my life trying to impress myself and others just to keep friends,” he said. “At times, you don’t really know who’s against you until you are hooked up in a wrong situation like this.”
He explained that he lost access to his Facebook account a number of weeks ago and was too busy to resolve it due to activities back at school. Then, all of a sudden, he received calls from friends informing him of the trend concerning a post from his account. He decided to open a new account on Facebook, after his old one was deactivated, in order to respond directly to enquiries from investigators.“I lost access to my Facebook account some weeks ago. I didn’t have much time to check out that because of school clearance and trying all possible means to get my name included in the just-concluded convocation which held on Saturday 12th May. Unfortunately, after all my effort to clear and convocate with my friends, my name wasn’t included in the convocation list when I checked on Thursday 10th.
“I returned home around 5:30pm on Thursday and was so bitter. On Friday morning, I received a phone call from my friend asking me what I have posted on Facebook that is trending and tarnishing my image. I didn’t believe her until another person called. I had to use my phone number and some Facebook authenticity processes to retrieve my account.
“Behold the rumors were actually going viral. I received nothing less than 3000 friend requests that very Friday and Saturday, and messenger texts abusing and calling me names. I felt so bad.
“On checking my official account which I lost access to, I noticed some chats and other things. I tried and I am still trying… That’s why I opened this account with the same username and profile after the other one was disabled by Facebook on Sunday morning so that investigating teams and persons that intend to know the truth can get it from me directly.”
Akpan also told the ICIR that no one is free from cyber attacks, and cited the example of Facebook’s recent scandal among others.
“I can recall a case where an impostor uses Regina Daniel’s Instagram impersonated account to chat with fans, which Regina later defended and threatened court cases with the bloggers. My own case is not different and I am not the cyber lord that knows everything about cyber and cyber space.”
Asked what he thinks about the YabaLeftOnline group to which he belongs, he said there is nothing wrong with it and he can’t blame it for his “misfortune”. “That’s a group that’s made up of thousands of Nigerian and foreigners. If the group wasn’t of good to them, some would have left,” he said. “Some persons have gotten help on that same group… So no need to bother a group of more than 150,000 members because of only me.”
However, he has noticed that members of the group at times play a fast one on the administrators by radically editing their posts after they have been approved. “At times you see some good article published, [only] to turn back or get a notification if you have commented before and you later come to see a different thing entirely.”
Fearful of dimming career prospects, Akpan called on the government and NGOs to come to his aid in bringing justice to the individual who hacked his account and impersonated him.
“I will advise the government and non-governmental organizations to please help me find the impostor and bring such animal to book so that my name can be white-listed,” he pleaded. “As I am a fresh graduate seeking job, what will be of me if I enter someone’s office to ask for job with an already tarnished reputation like this?”
AKPAN’S CLAIMS ARE NOT ISOLATED
After studying posts on the YabaLeftOnline Ward Facebook group, the ICIR discovered that Akpan is not the first member to complain of impersonation. On Tuesday, one Mya Carroll uploaded sreenshots on the group to report an account that has been asking for money in her name.
When the account’s handler was challenged, the response was: “I’m Mia also and I need money. This is my new account… My son had an accident and now I need money. He’s in coma. I’ll send my bank details.” There have also been numerous reports of fake accounts to the group’s administration upon scrutiny by members.
YABALEFTONLINE: A NO-HOLDS-BARRED FACEBOOK GROUP
While Akpan may be innocent of the charges levied against him, the YabaLeftOnline Ward Facebook group is one place where a lot of questionable posts are often condoned. The group’s description says it is a place “where members are free to share posts, rant, share opinions, laugh, get advise from other members, ask for relationship advise and more.” But, apparently, they usually do much more.
Managed by Chydo Lawrence and with well over 200,000 members, it is a social platform where youth from diverse places often share lewd jokes, sometimes appearing to approve of drug abuse, unsafe sex, and non-consensual intercourse ― with other members conspicuously reacting with the “ha-ha” Facebook reaction. Members also often ask for and provide advice on what abortion pills can be used. Messages to Lawrence, the group administrator, for a statement were neither acknowledged nor responded to.