A former member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Tony Nwulu has denied reports he is using the Nigerian Police to attack or persecute Oke Epia, the publisher of OrderPaper.
OrderPaper had in a report prior to the 2019 general elections profiled members of the Federal House of Representatives vying for either governorship or deputy governorship positions. The report, which OrderPaper described as an “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 Nigerian Police invited Epia for questioning on 30th July over what it described as ‘criminal complaint’ lodged against the journalist by Nwulu. Epia says the invitation is part of attacks on his media house by Nwulu.
But in a statement he issued on Wednesday, Nwulu, a politician, media proprietor and owner of a private TV station 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. I say this with special tribute to the late Precious Owolabi, a corper who served as a correspondent with Channels TV but was shot dead while on duty.
“The Not Too Young to Run bill that I sponsored enjoyed the greatest media support because of the tireless efforts of journalists who supported me. But I charge journalists to device means of identifying those I call wolves in journalist’s skin. As a major stakeholder and beneficiary in journalism, I can never undermine a journalist. I believe in freedom of the press.
“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. Journalists must be careful to identify those that are truly their colleagues otherwise such individuals will undermine the daily sacrifices being made by genuine journalists across the world who leave their families unsure if they will return alive and others who fled their countries and are today exiled because they dared to speak the truth. No one should be allowed to rubbish their sacrifices, certainly not a criminally minded fellow.
Nwulu also denied claims by Epia that he was issuing death threats to the publisher.
On why he involved the Nigerian Police in the matter, 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.
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