UPDATED: Police invite Nigerian journalist over report critical of politician

Nigerian journalists in an interview session[Photo: The Standard]
Journalists in an interview session[Photo: The Standard]

The police have invited Oke Epia, the publisher of OrderPaper Nigeria, over what it described as ‘criminal complaint’ lodged against the journalist.

The letter, dated July 26, requested Mr Epia report to the National Assembly Division of the police on July 30.

Without further information on the complaint, the letter noted that the gesture to Mr Epia is a fact-finding invitation.

Mr Epia, however, believes that the invitation is part of attacks on his media house by Tony Nwulu, a former member of the House of Representatives.

The relationship with the former legislator started after a publication prior to the 2019 general elections. The social media post profiled Rep 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.’

In his reaction on Twitter, Mr Nwulu branded the newspaper as fake, alleging that it never made an assessment of his stewardship.

“Fake medium. No sensible person should take you guys serious. Tribal bigots. At least your faceless promoters should try running for office and effect the change the desire and not just being pathetic armchair critics hiding under a useless medium to extort,” he tweeted on his handle @tonynwulu.

Threat to life

In a statement on Friday, Mr Epia raised an alarm that he and his colleagues have received threats to their lives.

He alleged that himself and other journalists in Order Paper have received threat calls directly from Mr Nwulu and strange calls and text messages from persons some of whom refused to identify themselves.

He said the strange encounters with the politician started on July 21 when the former lawmaker posted “unwarranted, grave and unsubstantiated allegations of extortion and blackmail against the organization on social media over a publication he disagreed with.”

“Mr Nwulu went on a binge of further verbal attacks and this time was calling my colleagues and issuing threats with a promise to hunt us down at all costs.

“Given the wave of attacks against journalists in recent times, we have decided to bring this matter to the public domain and let the world know that should anything untoward happen to me or any of our colleagues or the media establishment itself, Mr. Nwulu should be held responsible.

“According to the Press Attack Tracker which monitors attacks against journalists in the country, at least 36 Nigerian journalists were attacked between January and July this year.

“So when we now have someone saying that he will hunt us down, we need to make the world aware even though we have initiated appropriated steps to seek legal protection and redress both for ourselves and the reputation of our organization. And for the records, we stand by our story and insist that records available since the publication have further corroborated our reportage,” the statement reads.

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Police invitation

The story however took a new turn on Friday when management of Order Paper received the letter from the police.

The letter reads, “The Police Force, National Assembly Police Division is investigating a criminal complaint in which your names/organisation featured.

“In view of the above, it is requested that you report to the Divisional Crime Branch on 30th July 2019 at 2019 at 10.00 a.m. in furtherance to the above complaint.

“This is a fact-finding invitation and your presence is important.”

The letter was silent on the exact nature of the criminal complaint.

I reported to police – Nwulu

In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES Monday morning, Mr Nwulu said he reported the journalist to the police because of his ‘unsubstantiated claims’ against him.

He denied threatening the journalist and challenged him to provide evidence of such.

“The invitation from the police, yes,I did (reported him) because he needs to come and prove. And then I’ve not done any other thing than file charges against him. I want him to come and prove what he has said.

“You that he has told that there is a threat to his life, has he provided any substantial evidence? He has to prove it, not just claim. He (Mr Nwulu) sent you a threat text message?, bring it ,we can verify it from the network. Or, is it police invitation that is now a threat to life?

“I believe they just wrote that thing and forgot it until elections are over. They didn’t remember to go and pull it down until I found out,” Mr Nwulu said.

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