*Insists he stands by story against ex-lawmaker
Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The publisher of an online news medium, OrderPaper, Mr. Oke Epia, who was quizzed by the National Assembly Police department in the early hours of Tuesday over a report considered damaging to a former member, House of Representatives, Hon. Tony Nwulu, has expressed fear for his life and his staff.
The medium, in its March 6, 2018 had published a story titled: ‘Where are Tony Nwulu’s projects?’ where it was alleged among other things, that Nwulu, who sponsored the celebrated ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ bill and some other Lagos lawmakers “hid their allocations from scrutiny and pulled it together for a controversial project to please the former governor of Lagos, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
Though news broke that the National Assembly police detained Epia for allegedly defaming Nwulu and attempting to extort money from him, when THISDAY visited the Police Post, the Officer in Charge, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr. Musa Adamu, said the Abuja based journalist was not detained. He said although he was arrested, he had been released on bail after making his statement.
“We arrested him and we have released him on bail. He had an issue with an honourable member. He honoured our invitation and he has since left,” Adamu told THISDAY.
He noted that there will be further investigation into the matter, adding that “It is not a crime for someone to be invited by the police and you honour it and come.
“There is no big deal in that. There is an allegation against him, so it is for him to come and prove himself beyond reasonable doubt,” Adamu added.
When contacted, Epia insisted that he stands by his story and vowed to pursue a legal action against the former Lagos lawmaker who was in the 8th Assembly on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) platform.
“I have been released on bail to reappear on Monday morning. Tony Nwulu said I defamed him, so I think he told them it is ‘criminal defamation.’
“And, we stand by our story and we are going to make him defend his own wild allegation. He talked about extortion and we will want him to defend that.
“The story we have written, we stand by it, we will not recant, we will not amend it. If he feels very bad let him press charges.”
Asked how he feels after the visit to the police, he said: “For now I am fine, but let me not say I am fine. I have been released on bail, you never can say; someone who threatened me. I have reported that. I still have concern for my safety and the safety of my staff.”
In one of his reactions to the online media organisation on his twitter handle, @tonynwulu, the former lawmaker tagged OrderPaper as a “Fake medium. No sensible person should take you guys serious. Tribal bigots. At least your faceless promoters should try running for office and effect the change they desire and not just being pathetic armchair critics hiding under a useless medium to extort.”
But alleging that he and some other journalists in Order Paper publishing house have received threat calls directly from Hon. Nwulu and strange calls and text messages from persons some of whom refused to identify themselves, lawyers to the embattled journalist, in a letter dated July 29, 2019, urged the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory, to intervene in the matter and prevent the former lawmaker from carrying out his alleged threat.
Epia solicitors wrote in the letter that “We therefore request that you use your good office to wade into the issue with a view to doing the needful to ensure our client and his staff’s safety and bring the law to bear on Hon. Nwulu to prevent the effectuation of his repeated threats to Mr. Epia’s life.
“Following the publication of an article in our client’s online newspaper which he deemed unfavourable to him (but which our client stands by as being true and accurate, unless proven otherwise by him), Hon Nwulu, who represented Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.”