A former member of the House of Representatives, Tony Nwulu, has defended his decision to report Oke Epia, Editor in Chief of the Order Paper online newspaper, to the police.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, Mr Nwulu claimed that Mr Epia is a politician and not a journalist as reported in the media.
The National Assembly division of the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday briefly detained Mr Epia.
The police had invited Mr Epia over what it described as ‘criminal complaint’ lodged against the journalist.
The invitation was based on a complaint by Mr Nwulu.
The matter with the former legislator started after a publication before the 2019 general elections. The social media post profiled members vying for either governorship or deputy governorship positions.
In profiling Mr Nwulu, Order Paper said it reached out to the lawmaker to account for “missing funds and projects for Zonal Intervention Projects in the 2016 budget, a claim he is yet to respond to.”
The Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom had condemned Mr Epia’s ‘harassment’ by the lawmaker.
But reacting to the condemnation via his twitter handle @TonyNwulu, the lawmaker said Mr Epia ”is rather political hatchet man simply doing the bidding of his sponsors under the umbrella of the press”.
”My attention has been drawn to media reports citing claims by Oke Epia, a politician and publisher of @OrderPaper stating that I am using the Nigerian @PoliceNg to attack, intimidate or persecute him. This is false.”
”Epia is not a journalist but a political hatchet man simply doing the bidding of his sponsors under the umbrella of the press. He has been whipping up sentiments, hiding under the false allusion that he is a journalist and tagging media houses both locally and abroad.”
He said Mr Epia is a politician ”that has held political office as the Chief Press Secretary to Emeka Ihedioha, the incumbent governor of Imo State and his rival during the last governorship elections”.
”I have great respect for journalists and the media as the Fourth Estate, especially in the face of the risk they undertake daily to keep us informed. I say this with special tribute to the late Precious Owolabi, a corper with @channelstv who was shot dead on duty.’
”The #nottooyoungtorun bill that I sponsored enjoyed the greatest media support because of the tireless efforts of journalists who supported me. But I charge journalists to device [devise] a means of identifying those I call wolves in journalist’s skin”
”I believe in freedom of the press,” he added.
”Rogues claiming to be journalists must be identified and shamed. Some are nothing but grant hunters that set up projects to defraud unsuspecting development partners and NGOs.”
He said journalists must be careful to identify those that are truly their colleagues ”otherwise such individuals will undermine the daily sacrifices being made by genuine journalists across the world”.
“I am the one who went to the @PoliceNg. I did this to exercise my constitutional rights as someone who has been defamed under the guise of “journalism”. I reported this issue to the Police because of the weight of the allegations made against me.
“These allegations are unsubstantiated and no responsible media house anywhere in the world should use words like “missing funds” or “tens of millions” without any shred of evidence to back up such claims. It is against the tenets of professional media practice.”