By Uche Amunike
The news of detained journalist and CEO of online newspaper, Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), Fisayo Soyombo’s release by the Nigerian Police hit the airwaves, Tuesday, after being detained earlier on Monday.
This information was made known by the FIJ, shortly after Fisayo Soyombo’s release on bail was effected and he was asked to report to the Force Headquarters in January 13, 2022.
The FIJ stated in a tweet, that their only offence was that they published a true story.
Recall that Fisayo Soyombo was detained by the Nigerian police force early Monday due to a publication, where his paper indicted a senior police officer.
Soyombo was invited via a statement signed by Damilola Ayeni, over his report that exposed a Commissioner of Police, Joseph Egbunike, who approved the establishment of a Police Transit camp in six states, a project which his newspaper said was either non-existent or had little work done on it.
According to his medium’s report, Egbunike’s former role as Commissioner of Police in charge of Budget and Finance at the Nigerian Police Force Headquarters and also, head of the Police internal panel set up to probe Abba Kyari’s indictment in the recent FBI report on fraud conspiracy, teamed up with other Police Chiefs to approve over N1 billion naira for some police Transit camps projects in Bauchi, Plateau, Katsina, Benue and Kano states.
When reporters visited the project locations they were to discover that nothing, or little had been done after 3 years. In Plateau state, for instance, only two uncompleted bungalows and some mobile buildings were found on the N245m transit camp, spread out over a large expanse of land. A real estate expert on examining the project reported thus: ‘Look at that building in the red roof, which happens to be a police station in the camp, with N9million or N10m, you can raise that building up to that level’.
Soon after 11 lawyers to Egbunike petitioned Usman Alkali, the IG of Police over the story, asking for those behind it to be prosecuted for defamation under the penal code.
The 11 lawyers who are loyal to Egbunike claimed to operate under a joint mandate as ‘Concerned lawyers in defense of the Nigerian police and its officers from the peddling and publication of falsehood’. They are led by one Stefan Onome Okorodudu.
Recall that a day before Fisayo Soyombo’s release, he was on a long trip November 23 when he received an SMS that read: ‘Good Afternoon sir, this office is conducting an investigation in which your name and phone number featured, in view of this, you are to interview the Head, IGP Monitoring Unit on the 29th November, 2021 by 1000hrs at 1st Floor, Force Hdqtrs, Abuja. Thanks’.
‘Knowing he committed no offence, he honoured the police invitation on Monday, days after returning from the trip, only to discover it was in connection to a story exposing the award of transit police camp projects that do not exist to the tune of the contract sums,’ FIJ said in a statement.
Sadly, the Nigerian police is known for constantly intimidating and violating the rights of journalists whose reports they find unfavorable.
The police force has several times had journalist detained for those reports which they often linked to criminal investigation, while others suffer inhuman treatment during coverages of protest and demonstrations that are perceived to be anti-government.