By Abolaji Adebayo
The former member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing Oshodi-Isolo Constituency II, Hon. Tony Nwulu, has been allegedly issuing life threatening massages to the publisher of an online newspaper, OrderPaper Nigeria, Mr. Oke Epia for revealing how he (Nwulu) missed funds and projects for his constituency in the 2016 budget.
Nwulu represented Oshodi-Isolo II constituency in the 8th National Assembly before he left to contest for the governorship position in his State in 2019.
Epia raised an alarm over threats to his life and those of his colleagues allegedly issued serially by Nwulu.
In a statement released to the media, he said he and other journalists in the media organisation have received threat calls directly from Nwulu and strange calls and text messages from persons some of whom refused to identify themselves.
According to him, the strange encounters with the politician started on Sunday, July 21, 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.
OrderPaper had in a report prior to the 2019 general elections profiled members of the House of Representatives vying for either governorship or deputy governorship positions.
The report, which the medium described as “objective assessment” of Nwulu’s records at the National Assembly, claimed it queried Nwulu over “his missing funds and projects for zonal intervention (constituency projects) in the 2016 budget.”
Nwulu had disclaimed the report, describing it as baseless, faceless and defamatory. He then proceeded to report the matter to the police.
The Nigeria Police invited Epia for questioning on Tuesday, July 30 over what it described as ‘criminal complaint’ lodged against the journalist by Nwulu.
Epia said the invitation was part of attacks on his media house by Nwulu.
However, in a statement he issued on Wednesday July 31, Nwulu said the defamatory report about alleged “missing funds” was sponsored by his political detractors in the run up to the Imo state gubernatorial polls in which he contested as a governorship aspirant.
He noted that Epia “is not a journalist but a political hatchet man simply doing the bidding of his sponsors under the umbrella of the press.
“Epia has been whipping up sentiments, hiding under the false allusion that he is a journalist and tagging media houses both locally and abroad. But the truth is, he is not a journalist.
“He is a politician that has held political office as the chief press secretary to Emeka Ihedioha, the incumbent governor and my rival during the last governorship elections in Imo state.
“I have a lot of respect for journalists and the media as the fourth estate of our democracy, especially in the face of the risk that they undertake on a daily basis to keep us informed. “Rogues claiming to be journalists must be identified and shamed. Some are nothing but grant hunters that set up projects to defraud unsuspecting development partners and NGOs,” Nwulu stated.
On why he involved the Nigerian police, Nwulu said he was simply exercising his constitutional rights as someone who has been defamed under the guise of “journalism.”
“I reported this issue to the police because of the weight of the allegations made against me. These allegations were unsubstantiated and no responsible media house anywhere in the world should use words like “missing funds” without any shred of evidence to back up such claims. “It is against the tenets of professional media practice. It is a common principle of law that he who alleges must prove,” he said.
Meanwhile, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned the harassment Epia by the former member of the House of Representatives, calling on the Nigeria Police to thoroughly investigate the alleged threat to the life of the journalist.
In a statement released in Lagos by its Programme Director, Mr. Ayode Longe, MRA reminded the Police that: “As a journalist, Mr. Epia has a constitutional right and duty to hold the government and government officials accountable to the people. The Police is duty-bound to protect him as a citizen and as a journalist as well as to refrain from harassing him or interfering with the performance of his professional duties, while thoroughly investigating any threat to him or any attempt by any individual to harass him with a view to bringing the culprit to justice.”