© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Journalists raise alarm over threats from ‘sponsor of not-too-young-to-run bill’
…They are out to blackmail me — Tony Nwulu
THE publisher of OrderPaper Nigeria, Oke Epia, has raised an alarm over threats to his life and those of his colleagues issued serially by a former member of the House of Representatives, Tony Nwulu.
Nwulu sponsored the not-too-young-to-run bill that was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari last year.
Epia in a terse statement released to the media said himself and other journalists in the media organization have received threat calls directly from 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 the 21st of July, 2019 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.
The publication contained an objective assessment of his records in parliament, Epia said.
Taken aback by the outbursts, Epia said a letter was written to the politician asking for evidence to back up the claims in his posts which “are wild, tactless, libelous and absolutely unbecoming of someone who has held such high office as a federal legislator.”
But in a reaction, “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 Orderpaper publisher said.
They are out to blackmail me — Tony Nwulu
When contacted by The ICIR, the former lawmaker denied allegation of threats to the journalists. “Why would I threaten him? he asked. Describing himself as a law abiding citizen, Nwulu said he could not send any threat message or call to the journalist as “his life worth nothing to me.”
“He is just a false alarmist, ” Nwulu said, adding,”this is nothing but stock in trade of some journalists that blackmail and extort money from people.”
Challenging the publisher of Orderpaper to bring out evidences of threats to him and other colleagues, he said he had already reported the matter at the National Assembly police station, which according to him has sent an invitation to the journalist to appear on Tuesday, July 30.
“Let him provide the phone numbers and the text messages where I threatened him for police to investigate.”
Asked about the publication that is the bone of contention, Nwulu said it was a political mudslinging by the journalist arguing that the publication was done when he was running as governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State during the primaries against the former deputy speaker of House of Representatives and incumbent governor of the state, Emeka Ihedioha who he said the publisher of Orderpaper served as Special Adviser on Media for.
“He worked for Ihedioha when he was the deputy speaker,” he said. “He published a derogatory and unsubstantiated claims about me during the elections, but I ignored it despite calls from some journalists to me that I should bring money so that they can correct the report.”
He said he also ran against Ihedioa as the governorship candidate of United Progressive Party (UPP) in the last general election.
His friends and well wishers, he noted, called his attention to the report again when elections had ended. “It was clear that it was a political mudslinging and this is tantamount to biting someone and going out to cry,” he explained.
On the constituency project mentioned in the report, Nwulu also challenged the journalist to provide evidence where the money is missing. He explained that constituency projects are domiciled with agencies of government that execute such projects. “I stand to be investigated, I have never done a single project for government in my life.”
“He said I ran opaque constituency projects which money ran into tens of millions, let him come and prove his case,” he said.
According to him, the publisher of Orderpaper must state the exact amount of money he said was missing as against tens of million of naira.
“You can allege something without proving it, this is blackmail gone wrong.”