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Police invite: ICIR petitions President Tinubu, demands investigation and Solomon Arase’s suspension

THE International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has written a petition to President Bola Tinubu against the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun and the Chairman, Police Service Commission (PSC) Solomon Arase, calling for the latter’s suspension from office.

The petition, dated June 6, 2024, and signed by The ICIR Executive Director, Dayo Aiyetan, follows the intimidation of ICIR staff members by the police under Egbetokun, after an investigative report published by The ICIR, which linked Arase to a shady land deal involving the sale of police residential quarters when he was the IGP.

The petition, in which the National Security Adviser; Minister of Information and National Orientation; Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs; Chairman, House of Representative Committee on Media and Publicity; Chairman, National Human Rights Commission; President, International Press Institute; President, Nigerian Union of Journalists; and President Nigeria Guild of Editors are copied made four demands which are:

  1. The institution of an independent investigation devoid of police involvement, into the allegations of fraud and corruption running into billions of naira in the sale of Police property.
  2. An instruction to the Inspector General of Police to desist from allowing the NPF-NCCC (Nigerian Police Cyber Crime Centre) or any other arm of the Nigeria Police to intimidate, molest or threaten the ICIR, its Trustees and reporters, for pursuing their legitimate duties as mandated by section 22 of the Constitution.
  3. An instruction to the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mr Solomon Arase, to desist from further abusing and using his office to intimidate, harass, or threaten the ICIR, its Trustees, and reporters who are engaged in legitimate duties as mandated by Section 22 of the Constitution.
  4. The suspension of Solomon Arase from office as Chairman of the Police Service Commission to pave way for an independent investigation of abuse of office and corruption against him as contained in the petition and the ICIR investigative report

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The ICIR investigation alleged that some police officers assisted a contractor and Managing Director of Copran international Limited, Andy Chime, to forge the signature of a deceased Deputy Inspector-General of Police Saleh Abubakar to secure a contract.

Chime used the documents to obtain a loan of N573 million from the Nigeria Police Mortgage Bank and also unlawfully used the houses on the land as collateral, thus shortchanging the police.

According to the report, two former Inspectors-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris and Solomon Arase, currently the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), were accused of receiving house allocations worth over N200 million as incentives for awarding an estate development contract to Copran International Limited owned by Chime, for land originally meant to be used as police barracks.

After publication, the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrimes Centre (NPF-NCCC) invited two ICIR staff members, Aiyetan and Nurudeen Akewushola, who wrote the report, for questioning, during which they were detained for over nine hours.

The petition to the President noted that the invitation was at the behest of the former IGP, currently the PSC Chairman Arase and the contractor indicted in the investigation, Chime, both of whom had submitted petitions to the police over the report.

“Thus, the Police appeared more interested in protecting the interest of the person who allegedly fraudulently sold its property than investigating the allegations against him and recovering its property.

“Curiously, during the interrogation of Aiyetan and Akewushola by the NPF-NCCC, the investigating officers and the Director of the NPF-NCCC, Uche Ifeanyi Henry, were not interested in Andy Chime’s accusations but the source of the ICIR’s report and the evidence it had against Mr Arase,” The ICIR noted in its petition.

The petition also noted that the NPF-NCCC Director tried to force the journalists to release evidence gathered in the course of reporting, which would be required for their defence in a case already filed by Arase.

“Mr Arase’s petition, which he personally signed, was written on the letterhead of the Police Service Commission, of which Mr Arase is the Chairman.

“We consider this as a brazen and flagrant abuse of office by the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, who by virtue of his position oversees promotions and appointments in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Using his official capacity to write a petition concerning a private matter was in all intent and purpose aimed at using the Police to intimidate and threaten the ICIR and its journalists,” the petition further read.




     

     

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    The ICIR in its petition, therefore, urged President Tinubu to institute an independent investigation into the corruption allegations, which will exclude the police in the interest of justice and fairness. The petition also requested that The IGP be instructed to desist from allowing the police to intimidate or molest ICIR staff members and journalists.

    “The harassment of the ICIR journalists is the latest in a trend whereby the Police has abducted or arrested journalists for alleged cyberstalking for merely publishing reports which the subjects of investigative reports find offensive. We regard this trend of attacking the media as a dangerous on and an attack on our democracy,” the petition read.

    Other requests in the petition include an instruction restricting Arase from abusing the office of the PSC Chairman and using it to influence the intimidation of ICIR staff members and his suspension from office to allow for an independent investigation of the corruption allegations reported by The ICIR.

    In recent times, journalists have been abducted or arrested by the police based on the Cybercrimes Act, which has been amended after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court ruled against it.

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    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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