News

May 29, 2024

ICIR raises alarm over Police detention of director, reporter

ICIR raises alarm over Police detention of director, reporter

By: Kingsley Omonobi

Following an invitation to the Executive Director and a Reporter of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, by the Police Force National Cybercrime Centre on Tuesday both media staff were still being held as at going to Press last night

A statement by ICIR Tuesday night said it was concerned about the continuous holding of its Executive Director, Dayo Aiyetan and Reporter, Nurudeen Akewushola, “who today (Tuesday) went to the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCC) following the invitation from the Centre.”

It reads, “Aiyetan and Akewushola accompanied by the company’s lawyers had gone to the Centre since noon today, May 28, 2024, and they have been unreachable including the lawyers.

“The ICIR was, however, able to gather that there is likely a sinister move by the Centre to detain both Aiyetan and Akewushola.

ICIR recalled that, “Earlier on May 15, 2024, the ICIR received letters of invitation addressed to one of its reporters, Akewushola, and another to its “Managing Directors” by the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre.

“The letters dated April 16, 2024, was delivered at the ICIR’s office on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

“However, curiously, the Police in the letter, signed by a Commissioner of Police, Uche Ifeanyi Henry, the Centre’s Director, requested that the reporter and directors appear at its Abuja offices on Wednesday, April 24.

Part of the letter reads, “The Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre is investigating a case of cyberstalking and defamation of character in which the above-named person featured prominently.

“In view of the above, you are requested to interview the Director of the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCCC) at Plot 625 Mission Road, Diplomatic Zone, Central Business District, Abuja through CSP Omaka Udodinma Chukwu on Wednesday 24th April 2024. Call 08067854241 on your arrival.

“Your cooperation in this regard will be highly appreciated, please.”
In its response to the first invitation

The ICIR raised some concerns to the police, including the disparity in invitation and delivery dates, and the lack of details of the petition which led to their investigations for cyberstalking and defamation of character.

The ICIR requested that details of the petition should be provided so that it could adequately prepare for the police interview.

“Following the ICIR reply, the NPF-NCC sent another set of invitation letters.

In a second set of letters from the NPF-NCCC to The ICIR dated May 20, 2024, two copies of which were addressed separately to the reporter and the “managing director,” the discrepancy in the dates was adjusted but details of the allegations against the centre and its reporter were not provided

“The Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre is investigating a case of cyberstalking and defamation of character reported to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Criminal Investigation Department, Area 10 Abuja, in which your presence is needed.

“In view of the above, you are kindly requested to interview the Director, Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Center (NPF-NCC) Plot 625 Mission Road, Diplomatic Zone Central Business District, Abuja, through CSP Omaka Udodinma Chukwu on Monday 27 May, 2024 by 10:00hrs. It is a fact-finding invitation,” the letter read in part.

The date and time were eventually changed to May 28, 12 noon following a conversation between The ICIR lawyers and the Police.
Honouring the Police Invitation today, May 28, 2024

Today, (Tuesday) at the stipulated time, the ICIR staff and lawyers went to the address stated in the NPF-NCC letters and it’s been over 7 hours since they’ve been held in custody.

The ICIR expressed concern that its reporter and manager were invited by the police on allegations of cyberstalking in spite of the amendments to the Cybercrime Act in February 2024.

“We are worried that this could be a ploy by the Police to detain them, despite the fact that the NPF-NCC stated in its letter that “it is a fact-finding invitation,” says Victoria Bamas, The ICIR Editor.

It will be recalled that following the initial invitation of The ICIR reporter and its managers by the NPF-NCC, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, had stated that arresting journalists based on cyberstalking and criminal intimidation charges was unlawful, as the section of the Act (Section 24) often relied on by the police had been amended by the Nigerian parliament in February this year.

The ICIR has reasonable cause to believe that the police invitation is related to an investigation that linked some former police bosses to a shady land deal. Interestingly, one of the former police bosses in a press release said he has taken the case to court. However, the ICIR has not been formally notified.