On January 10, 2022, operatives of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Nigeria’s foreign intelligence and counterintelligence agency, stormed the head office of Peoples Gazette in Abuja, demanding to see the online newspaper’s managing editor and a reporter. The agents threatened to use “other options” should the journalists fail to cooperate with them over the source of an alleged confidential memo that was published in December 2021.
Four officers of the agency arrived the Peoples Gazette office in a white Toyota Hilux truck at about 1:00 p.m. local time, intimidated security personnel at the gate and forced their way into the offices on the second floor of the building housing the media outlet demanding to see The Gazette’s Managing, Editor Samuel Ogundipe and a reporter, Ms Hillary Essien.
Peoples Gazette had obtained and published in a series of three articles, a memo that some directors at NIA had written to President Muhammadu Buhari, advising him against retaining Rufai Abubakar as the director-general on the grounds that he lacked intellectual and physiological rigour for the position.
The operatives left after they realized that Samuel and Ms Essien were not in the office but left a letter dated December 23, 2021 and signed for the DG by Amstrong Machunga, demanding that the outlet should disclose the identities of the officers responsible for the memo and its disclosure.
The three-page letter claimed the content of the memo written to the president by the directors is “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 letter said: “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.”
Samuel however said The Gazette stands by its story adding “The Gazette made efforts to obtain comments from the NIA prior to running the articles but received no response.” He added that presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu acknowledged the letter and said the president had addressed the concerns raised by the directors.