UPDATED: ICIR executive director, reporter held by Police Cybercrime Centre

UPDATE:

AFTER nine hours at the Nigerian Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCC), the ICIR executive director, Dayo Aiyetan and the reporter, Nurudeen Akewushola, have been released.

Akewushola was however released on bail.


THE Nigerian Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCC) has been holding the Executive Director of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan, and its reporter, Nurudeen Yahaya Akewushola, hours after they honoured its invitation on Tuesday, May 28.

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The ICIR in a statement released Tuesday night raised concerns over their continuous detention, noting that Aiyetan and Akewushola accompanied by the company’s lawyers had been unreachable since 12pm when they arrived at the centre in Abuja.

The organisation said it gathered that there was likely a sinister move by the police to detain both Aiyetan and Akewushola.

The ICIR, earlier on Tuesday reported that both journalists would honour the police invitation having received a letter from the Cybercrime Centre.

In its invitation, the Police claimed it is probing a case of cyberstalking and defamation of character based on a petition received by the office of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Criminal Investigative Department, but provided no details.

Ealier, on May 15, The ICIR received a letter from the Cybercrime Centre inviting its managers and Akewushola to appear before it on April 24. The letter written dated April 16 was not delivered to The ICIR until three weeks later long after it was supposed to have honoured the invitation.

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

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

In a second letter from the NPF-NCCC 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.

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However, the date and time of the meeting were eventually changed to noon on May 28, following a conversation between The ICIR lawyers and the police.

Despite honouring the invitation, The ICIR’s boss and the reporter, alongside the company’s lawyers, have not been released as of 8:50pm Tuesday when filing this report.

“Today, at the stipulated time, The ICIR staff and lawyers went to the address stated in the NPF-NCC letters and it’s been over seven 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,” The ICIR said in a statement.

Speaking on the development, the Centre’s Editor, Bamas Victoria, noted that the failure to release the two journalists 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.”

The invitation by the police may not be unconnected from an investigation published by The ICIR, which linked some former police bosses to a shady land deal.

Following the initial invitation of The ICIR reporter and its managers by the NPF-NCCC, human rights lawyer Femi Falana said 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.




     

     

    Summary of investigation that exposed the former IGPs, other police chiefs

    The report revealed that the former IGPs, Ibrahim Idris and Solomon Arase, currently the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), were accused of receiving N200 million each and a house allocation as incentives for awarding an estate development contract to Corpran International Limited for land originally meant to be used as police barracks.

    A former staff member of Corpran International Limited Kalu O. Kalu and a lawyer Francis Mgboh accused both former IGPs of unlawfully approving the contract for the development of the land, which belongs to the Police, without adequate scrutiny, after receiving the bribe.

    The allegations currently form a part of ongoing litigation at the Federal High Court in Abuja, and documents obtained by The ICIR, including court affidavits, showed that many other top police officials were also bribed to facilitate the approval of the contract.

    Arase, abusing the office he currently occupies, had released a statement through the PSC spokesperson Ikechukwu Ani on Friday, May 17, 2024, saying he had sued three ICIR staff members, including the reporter Akewushola, Executive Director of The ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, and The ICIR Editor, Victoria Bamas.

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    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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