The police have summoned a PREMIUM TIMES reporter, Emmanuel Agbo, over a yet-to-be-published report that he is working on.

Mr Agbo received an invitation letter dated 31 May 2024 from the office of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Intelligence Response Team (NPF-IRT), Abuja, via Whatsapp on Monday.

The police sent the letter after Mr Agbo requested a formal invitation instead of their initial phone call invitation.

Mr Agbo was first contacted over the telephone by a police officer named Ezemba Ezekiel on 30 May, requesting him to come over to the office Intelligence Response Team (NPF-IRT) in Guzape, Abuja.

“I am Ezemba Ezekiel from the Intelligence Response Team. I am calling you on behalf of Homadils. You are expected to come over to our office at Abattoir in Guzape to clarify a petition,” he said via phone call.

The firm, Homadils Realty Limited, referenced by the police officer in the phone conversation, is a land developer and major party to a land dispute which Mr Agbo’s planned story is focusing on.

The police invitation came after Mr Agbo earlier reached out to the Chief Executive Officer of Homadils, Bilkisu Aliu, over the phone and further exchanged messages on Whatsapp where she shared with the PREMIUM TIMES journalists her reactions to allegations levelled against her by a family laying claim to the land in dispute.

After the phone call invitation with the police on Monday, Mr Agbo asked Mr Ezekiel, the police officer who initiated the phone call, to make the police invitation formal by writing to him through PREMIUM TIMES.

Following this request, Mr Ezekiel sent an invitation letter dated 31 May to Mr Agbo via WhatsApp on Monday.

The invitation from the IRT only stated that Mr Agbo’s name surfaced in a petition without giving any details.

It further requested the PREMIUM TIMES journalist on Wednesday, 5 June, at 2 p.m. at the IRT Complex, Old Abattoir by Guzape Junction, Abuja.

Premium Times responds to police

PREMIUM TIMES has responded to the invitation letter, assuring the police of its readiness to support their investigation and requesting details of the petition they received from Homaldis.

“We have received a letter from you to our reporter, Agbo Emmanuel, in which you invited him to appear before you on 05/06/2024 at your office at ‘IRT Complex, Old Abbatoir by Guzape Junction, Abuja’. We received the letter today, 03-06-2024, although it is dated 31-05-2024,” the Managing Editor of PREMIUM TIMES, Idris Akinbajo, wrote in the letter delivered at the of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, IRT, on Monday.

The letter added: “We, Premium Times, are an online newspaper dedicated to using investigative journalism to hold power accountable and deepen democracy as enshrined in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“We are thus always ready to assist law enforcement agencies in the course of their professional duties.

However, in your letter to Mr Emmanuel Agbo, you only stated that your ‘office is in receipt of petition…’ but did not provide any details of the petition.

“We ask that you provide more details of the petition to enable our reporter, Mr Agbo, to make adequate preparations and bring along relevant materials when he appears in your office.”

“We trust that you will treat this promptly so we and Mr Emmanuel Agbo can prepare adequately and assist you in the course of your work.

“Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or clarifications.”

From the interaction with the police officer who first invited Mr Agbo through phone call, the police invitation has to do with a dispute involving Homadils Realty Limited and a family over a prized piece of land in Guzape, a choice area of Abuja.

The dispute has thrown up allegations of document falsifications which, we learnt, are being investigated by the Federal Capital Development Authority.

Journalists targetted

There has been a recent upsurge in the cases of police targeting journalists for doing their legitimate work in Nigeria.

In one of the recent cases, the police detained the Executive Director of the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Dayo Aiyetan, and an investigative journalist with the platform, Nurudeen Akewushola, for over nine hours.

Both journalists honoured the invitation of the police and arrived at the NPF-NCCC office at noon on Tuesday but were held and only released after 9 p.m. The newspaper had raised an alarm and journalists and activists immediately took to social media and berated the police, even as they called for their immediate release.

Mr Akewushola said the police claimed they had received a petition, in which he and the ICIR were accused of ‘cyberstalking and defamation’, a popular accusation Nigerian authorities have used to clamp down on journalists and activists.