Police Summons Foundation for Investigative Journalism’s BoT Chair over Cybercrime Allegations

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Ms Bukky Shonibare, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Foundation for Investigative Journalism

Ms Bukky Shonibare, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), on March 26, 2024, honoured an invitation by the Nigeria Police Force National Cybercrime Centre (NPF-NCC) in their Abuja office over cybercrime allegations made against the publisher, Mr. Fisayo Soyombo, over his reporting exposing corruption in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

The invitation was linked to an investigative report published by FIJ which uncovered irregularities within the Nigeria Customs Service.

Ms Shonibare honoured the invitation in the company of FIJ’s legal counsel, Mr. Folarin Aluko.

Recounting her experience, she said despite FIJ’s usual policy of maintaining anonymity for its board members, the authorities managed to obtain her details through official channels.

She noted that upon her arrival at the NPF-NCC office, she was subjected to a detailed interrogation session, led by Samuel Umezurike, Deputy Director of the Threat Response Unit, during which she was asked biased questions and subjected to discriminatory remarks based on her gender and age.

She asserted however, that FIJ operates solely as a platform for investigative journalism, emphasizing its commitment to publishing stories rather than engaging in collaborative research with law enforcement.

Ms Shonibare added that the interrogation delved into FIJ’s operational structure, particularly focusing on editorial oversight and content control where she clarified that the board primarily handles governance matters, while the editorial team manages the day-to-day operations, including story selection and publication. She reiterated FIJ’s commitment to journalistic standards and that it asserts the veracity of its published stories.

According to her, the interrogation took a different turn when the police investigator asked her to produce Fisayo, insisting on speaking with him and prompting her to address any misconceptions regarding his availability.

The investigator informed her that he needed to speak to Mr. Soyombo and that she had to produce him. She said she responded saying “If I need to produce Fisayo, that sounds like you have tried to get ‘Fisayo or you’ve invited him and he did not come, so you need me, in whatever capacity, to go and produce him.”

She said she clarified that Mr. Soyombo was not on the run, pointing out that he had neither been invited nor did he fail to honour an invitation. When asked when she could come with him, she said she also asked if her interrogator was inviting her again and he answered in the affirmation, adding that she had to return with him.

Ms. Shonibare said throughout the interrogation, her lawyer remained alert and followed legal protocols while guarding against potential detention.