In June 2022, few minutes after returning from a grocery shopping, I heard a knock on my door. My dog, a Shitzu, barked and ran to the door. I was wondering who must be visiting me in my suburb home.
I went to the door, peeped through the door glass and two men in black were standing in front of my door, waiting.
Two FBI agents from the Local office have been detailed to come speak with me. The mission? To find out how I get all the exposures and exclusive information I release about high Government officials in Nigeria.
I opened the door. And immediately, my eyes went to the FBI badge clipped on the trouser of one of the officers. “Jackson Ude”? The officer asked. Yes, I answered. Both men introduced themselves politely as men from the FBI.
“We are here to ask you some questions.” The second officer said. The first officer took over the questioning session.
They asked me what I do. I told them I am an investigative Journalist. They asked me if I ever heard problems in Nigeria, if my life has ever been threatened. I said yes. And severally too. They asked of any latest incident.
I told them and narrated how.
They asked me how I get the information I publish about officials in the Nigerian Government.
I told them I have spent 26yrs as a journalist and all through those years, I have built a huge list of sources in and out of Government. They asked me who writes the stories on my websites and Twitter. I told them I have Reporters based in Nigeria and some of the articles, I write. And that I personally do my tweets.
The FBI officers asked me about my knowledge of computer and its usage. I told them I have basic-emailing, Microsoft, researches, etc. Just the basics. They asked me if I ever hack computers. I told them NO. I never had such trainings. They asked me about my income and sources. And if I file taxes, I told them yes.
They asked me when I became a U.S citizen, I told them the year and date.
After nearly 40 minutes, the questioning FBI agent looked at me and said I should be careful and should watch my movements because some highly placed people in Nigeria are not happy.
He told me some people in Government had petitioned claiming I have been hiding under the cover of the U.S as a fugitive from Nigeria, hacking Nigerian Government computers, stealing information and using it to blackmail and embarrass them.
He said if I have been hacking which he doesn’t believe I do, I should stop because even as an American, I can be sued for hacking. I told them I never hacked and never steal information. I obtain information professionally as a journalist and once it is of public interest, I release them.
As soon as they were about to leave, I asked them if I need to speak to a lawyer. They said no. I don’t need it since I am not in trouble with them. The visit was necessary because there were petitions against me and they needed to clarify.
I immediately made few phone calls after they left. This was how I was informed by a friend that two petitions against me were received at the U.S Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, accusing me of hacking and stealing Government classified information which I use in embarrassing high level officials of the Government of President Mohammadu Buhari. I was able to trace the source of the petitions.
The desperation to hound investigative Journalists reporting and exposing the deep seated corruption in Nigeria is real. This is why I often encourage David Hundeyin to always keep his head high. And don’t be distracted. This job is a thanklessly dangerous job that only the strong willed can survive.
I was trained by Bala Dan Abu, a former Editor of News Watch, a consummate Journalist per excellence who was a colleague of the late Dele Giwa.
I know how many times he was taken to the DMI in Shangisha, during the military era. I know how many times we had to abandon our office to hold editorial meetings under the Jibowu, Yaba bridge. Investigative Journalism work is dangerous. Folks like Hundeyin, Samuel Ogundipe and few others risking their lives, must be protected.
The Nigerian Government would use all available resources to threaten and intimidate anyone seen to know their crookedness. It is a silencing strategy aimed at allowing them continue with their corruption. I have personally seen it all and now numb to fear and intimidations.
I have been sued severally here in the U.S by Nigerian Government officials. Not that they intend winning the cases. No. It is part of the intimidation strategy, get you spend money and then demand for out of court settlement midway.
Between 2022-date, I have spent well over $120k maintaining four lawyers. I am willing to spend more because I refuse to be bullied or intimidated by those who want to silence our voices. It is the price we pay!