ICIR writes Tinubu over police harassment, urges him to investigate, prosecute ex IGPs, Arase, Idris

ICIR writes Tinubu over police harassment, urges him to investigate, prosecute ex IGPs, Arase, Idris

The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has written to President Bola Tinubu asking him to order the investigation and prosecution

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The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) has written to President Bola Tinubu asking him to order the investigation and prosecution of two former Inspectors General of Police, Solomon Arase, and Ibrahim Idris, and other persons involved in an alleged illegal sale of lands designated for police barracks.

The media organisation also asked the president to suspend Arase as the Chairperson of the Police Service Commission (PSC) to pave the way for an independent investigation of abuse of office and corruption against him “as contained in this petition and the ICIR investigative report.”

“We write this letter to seek refuge from Your Excellency from the acts of intimidation and threat to the life of personnel of the ICIR carried out by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun and the Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PS), Mr Solomon Arase,” the Executive Director of the ICIR, Dayo Aiyetan, wrote in the letter.

The letter by the ICIR is in reaction to the harassment of the organisation’s personnel by the police in response to a story the newspaper published detailing allegations of fraud and corruption against the two former IGPs and other high-ranking police officers.

The ICIR story also revealed that Arase enabled Corpran International Limited to obtain nearly N1 billion from the Police Mortgage Bank without collateral.

It also indicted Andy Chime, the owner of Corpran International Limited, of being used to dupe the NPF in the illegal deal.

Following the publication of the ICIR report, Arase and Corpran International Limited instituted lawsuits against the newspaper and Akewushola, the reporter who authored the story.

Messrs Arase and Chime also wrote a petition to the Nigerian Police Force Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCCC), accusing the journalists of cyberstalking and defamation of character —leading to the harassment of the journalists by the police.

Last Tuesday, Akewushola and Aiyetan were detained by the NPF-NCCC for over nine hours after honouring an invitation by the same centre.

They arrived at noon but were only released after 9 p.m. Their release by the police may not be unconnected to the widespread condemnation of the conduct of the security operatives over the matter as journalists and activists took to social media to advocate their immediate and unconditional release.

Ibrahim Idris

Aiyetan and Akewushola revealed after their release that their invitation and brief detention were due to a petition by Messrs Arase and Chime, the owner of Copran International Limited.

“Arase’s petition, which he personally signed, was written on the letterhead of the Police Service Commission, of which Arase is the Chairman,” Aiyetan wrote, describing such as a brazen and flagrant abuse of the PSC office occupied by Arase.

“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,” he said.

Aiyetan wondered why the Director of the NPF-NCCC, Oche Henry, was not interested in Andy Chime’s accusations but in the source of the ICIR report and the evidence it had against Arase.

“The NPF-NCCC Director was determined not to release the ICIR duo unless they produced the evidence, they used in the report against Arase. Thus, the NPF-NCC was trying to force out of the ICIR the same evidence it would need to use to defend itself in the case instituted against it by Arase,” he added.

Akewushola said the police insisted on knowing the sources for his story, describing it as an outright violation of journalistic ethics.

The police also told the journalists that they would be called upon again, indicating that the harassment would continue.

In its letter, the ICIR asked Tinubu to institute an independent investigation, devoid of police involvement, into the allegations of fraud and corruption in the sale of the police property.

“We believe that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, has already commenced a full investigation,” Aiyetan wrote.

Apart from seeking the suspension of Arase from office, ICIR also asked Mr Tinubu to instruct the IGP to desist from allowing the NPF-NCCC or any other arm of the NPF to intimidate, molest or threaten the ICIR, its trustees and reporters, for pursuing their legitimate duties as journalists as mandated by section 22 of the Constitution.

“The harassment of the ICIR journalists is the latest in a trend whereby the Police have 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 one and an attack on our democracy,” Aiyetan wrote.

More than two dozen journalists have faced at least one form of harassment from security agencies this year, according to Press Attacker, a project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) which tracks and verifies attacks on journalists.

Right groups and activists have also condemned what is now a growing trend of attacks on press freedom under the administration of  Tinubu who took office last year.

During a meeting with members of the. Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in December, Tinubu committed to upholding the ideals of press freedom. But his administration has not walked the talk as press attacks continued unabated under his watch.