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NIA storms Peoples Gazette’s head office Over Leaked Secret Memo on DG

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Operatives of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on Monday stormed the head office of Peoples Gazette in Abuja, demanding to see the online newspaper’s managing editor, a reporter and bearing a letter that threatened “other options” should the journalists fail to cooperate with stipulation for the source of a confidential memo that was published in December.

The Gazette had obtained — and published in a series of three articles — a memo that spy chiefs at the foreign intelligence office had written to President Muhammadu Buhari, warning him against retaining Rufai Abubakar as the director-general on the grounds that he lacked intellectual and physiological rigour for the position.

On Monday, nearly three weeks after the articles, four officers arrived in a white Toyota Hilux truck shortly after 1:00 p.m., intimidated security personnel at the gate and forced their way into our offices on the second floor.

The agents from the nation’s external security service then demanded to see The Gazette’s Managing Editor Samuel Ogundipe and reporter Hillary Essien. One of the officers, who adorned a cream kaftan with a matching cap, gave a letter to The Gazette’s front desk staff. Pages of the letter were subsequently scanned and transmitted to The Gazette’s lawyers in Lagos.

The officers left after they realised that Mr Ogundipe and Ms Essien were not at the office, but indicated in their letter that they will make additional efforts to realise the agency’s mission.

The three-page letter described the content of the memo written to the president by the directors as being “full of falsehood,” adding that “it is even worse that Peoples Gazette did not deem it necessary to validate the allegations in such a letter with the other party before running to press.”

The NIA, in the letter signed for the DG by Amstrong Machunga, asked The Gazette to reveal the identities of the officers responsible for the memo and its disclosure.

“It should be on the record that the NIA, as a Secret Service, is sensitive to undue publicity, but not shy of accountability and ready to engage on any issue of concern with responsible media outlets. The malicious publication under reference falls in the category of undue publicity and is most unwelcome.

“Peoples Gazette, therefore, has to come clean not the falsehood it published and prove that it is not working for people with ulterior negative motives against the NIA, by forwarding to us a copy of the letter from which the publication emanated and identify signatories to the purported letter.

“This could set the stage for engagement and resolution of the damage that has been caused to the image of the Director General of the NIA and the organisation. Failure to take advantage of this opportunity may lead to activation of other options to seek redress,” the letter, dated December 23, 2021, but delivered today, said.

The Gazette made efforts to obtain comments from the NIA prior to running the articles but received no response. However, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu acknowledged the letter and said the president had addressed the concerns raised by the directors.

The Gazette stands by its story and urged Mr Abubakar and the NIA management to focus on addressing the protests of the officers who wrote the letters rather than deploying resources towards unearthing their identities.

“The NIA directors recognised the risks involved when they pushed that confidential memo to the president,” Mr Ogundipe said. “Our newspaper will not take part in breaking that confidentiality.”

“Mr Abubakar should clear the air on whether or not he failed promotional exams on three different occasions, as well as the allegations of corruption and nepotism we saw in the memo,” the Managing Editor added.

Chidi Odinkalu, a constitutional law expert and former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said the NIA had breached the Nigerian Constitution by sending its agents to The Gazette’s office in the manner it did.

“The NIA acted unlawfully,” Mr Odinkalu said by telephone on Monday afternoon. “If they have anything, they should collaborate with the State Security Service or the Nigeria Police Force who have the responsibility of internal security operations and law enforcement, respectively.”

Mr Odinkalu said the NIA’s move against The Gazette underscored the growing threats to journalism practice under the Buhari regime. It came a year after the regime blocked The Gazette’s website in Nigeria after a report exposed the dwindling capacity incompetence of the president’s chief of staff Ibrahim Gambari.

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Three Bag Jail Terms For Internet Fraud In Lagos

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The Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, secured the conviction and sentencing of the trio of Raheem Sodiq Morenikeji, Adetunji Stephen Ademola and Okpala Samuel for internet fraud before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

The convicts were arrested sometime in May 2021 at the Sangotedo, Alagbado and Meiran areas of Lagos State, respectively.

Raheem was charged with an amended count in which he was accused of defrauding his victim through deception to the tune of $2,000 and another N54, 000 as a picker.

Under interrogation, he admitted to have purchased a Toyota Camry 2013 model in the name of his mother, which was recovered from him. An iPhone 7x was also recovered from him.

On his part, Ademola who was also charged with an amended one-count charge, following a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution, was accused of posing online as “Tina Moore” and “Jessica”, to defraud his victims to the tune of $2,000.

Upon arrest, an iPhone 11 Pro Max was recovered from him.

Okpala, who also approached the EFCC for a plea bargain, was charged with a one-count amended charge in which he was accused of posing on Facebook as Jane Michelle Gregor living in Texas, through which he professed love to one Roberto, who was actually living in Minnesota, United States.

He lured Roberto into a romantic relationship and was able to receive $600 from him purportedly for feeding and payment for school fees. An iPhone 11 and bontel phone were recovered from him upon arrest.

They all “pleaded guilty” to the charges, and also pleaded with the Court to temper justice with mercy.

Subsequently, Justice Solebo found the  defendants guilty as charged and sentenced them  to one year in prison.

While Raheem was given an option of N500,000 fine, Ademola got N1million option of fine, and Okpala was given an option of N400,000 fine.

In addition, they are all to sign a bond with the EFCC upon their release to be of good behaviour and not to engage in any form of economic and financial crime.

Raheem and Ademola were also ordered to serve 500 hours of community service, while Okpala got 400 hours.

They were also ordered to forfeit to the Federal Government all the items recovered from them.

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EFCC Arraigns Businesswoman For Alleged N57.6m Dud Cheque In Lagos

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The Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday, arraigned one Oluremi Philips before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

Philips, alongside her company, Omritas Energy Limited, is facing a five-count charge bordering on stealing and issuance of dud cheques to the tune of N57, 690,000.00

One of the counts reads: “Oluremi Ebun Philips and Omritas Energy Limited, sometime in 2016 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, fraudulently converted and stole the sum of N57,690,000.00, property of AYM Shafa Limited meant for the supply of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), which you failed to supply.”

Another count reads: “Oluremi Ebun Philips and Omritas Energy Limited, on or about the 10th of April 2017 at Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly issued a Diamond Bank cheque for the sum of N14, 298,075.00 payable to AYM Shafa Limited, which when presented for payment was dishonoured because no sufficient funds were standing to the credit of the account.”

She pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

In view of her plea, the prosecuting counsel, T.J. Banjo, prayed to the Court for a trial date and the remand of the defendant.

Defence counsel, Akin Olatunji, however, informed the Court of the bail application of the defendant, which he said had also been filed and served on the prosecution.

Responding, Banjo confirmed receipt, noting that, “we intend to react to same and to file a counter-affidavit”.

Thereafter, Justice Solebo adjourned till February 14 and 15, 2022 for “trial and ruling on the bail application”.

The defendant was also ordered to be remanded at the Correctional Centre till the next adjourned date.

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Three jailed for internet fraud in Lagos

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The Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Thursday secured the conviction and sentencing of the trio of Raheem Sodiq Morenikeji, Adetunji Stephen Ademola and Okpala Samuel for internet fraud before Justice S.O. Solebo of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.

The convicts were arrested sometime in May 2021 at the Sangotedo, Alagbado and Meiran areas of Lagos State, respectively.

Raheem was charged with an amended count in which he was accused of defrauding his victim through deception to the tune of $2,000 and another N54, 000 as a picker.

Under interrogation, he admitted to have purchased a Toyota Camry 2013 model in the name of his mother, which was recovered from him. An iPhone 7x was also recovered from him.

On his part, Ademola who was also charged with an amended one-count charge, following a plea bargain agreement with the prosecution, was accused of posing online as “Tina Moore” and “Jessica”, to defraud his victims to the tune of $2,000.

Upon arrest, an iPhone 11 Pro Max was recovered from him.

Okpala, who also approached the EFCC for a plea bargain, was charged with a one-count amended charge in which he was accused of posing on Facebook as Jane Michelle Gregor living in Texas, through which he professed love to one Roberto, who was actually living in Minnesota, United States.

He lured Roberto into a romantic relationship and was able to receive $600 from him purportedly for feeding and payment for school fees. An iPhone 11 and bontel phone were recovered from him upon arrest.

They all “pleaded guilty” to the charges, and also pleaded with the Court to temper justice with mercy.

Subsequently, Justice Solebo found the defendants guilty as charged and sentenced them to one year in prison.

While Raheem was given an option of N500,000 fine, Ademola got N1million option of fine, and Okpala was given an option of N400,000 fine.

In addition, they are all to sign a bond with the EFCC upon their release to be of good behaviour and not to engage in any form of economic and financial crime.

Raheem and Ademola were also ordered to serve 500 hours of community service, while Okpala got 400 hours.

They were also ordered to forfeit to the Federal Government all the items recovered from them.

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