The premises of The Sun Publishing Limited, publisher of The Sun Newspapers was raided on Monday by operatives of the Economic and Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The company said the raid lasted for about an hour and the staff were subjected to psychological and emotional trauma.
But EFCC denied the allegation that it traumatized or intimidated staff, saying its operatives only visited the head office of the media outfit as part of routine efforts to ascertain the state of the assets of the publishing company which is subject of subsisting interim forfeiture order.
The Sun, owned by former Abia governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, has been subjected to a forfeiture order, obtained by the EFCC in a suit against the former governor in 2007. However, an appeal has been filled and still pending court.
The firm has urged the commission to desist from harassing them and follow court process.
The full statement below:
Law-abiding staff of The Sun Publishing Limited resumed work this morning, June 12, 2017, to behold heavily armed EFCC operatives in our company. They claimed to have “orders from above” to seal up the premises of The Sun Publishing Limited.
At gunpoint, they ordered our security personnel to take them around the company premises, after which they proceeded to prevent staff from either entering or leaving the premises, and disrupted our circulation process.
For one gruelling hour, the EFCC operatives subjected our staff to crude intimidation, psychological and emotional trauma, even as some of the men accused our organisation of publishing pro-Biafra, Boko Haram, and Niger Delta militant stories, as they surveyed our premises.
We recall that in 2007, (10 years ago) the EFCC had obtained an interim forfeiture order in respect of some assets of The Sun, attached to a suit against our Publisher, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, for which we have filed an appeal, which is still pending in court.
We also recall that the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had written a letter personally signed by him dated 23rd of May and received on the 7th of June, asking The Sun management to report to the Commission on 5th of June, detailing our operations in the last 10 years, on account of an interim order of forfeiture under appeal.
As a law-abiding corporate citizen, our lawyer, Chris Uche SAN, wrote the Commission to intimate the Agency that the issue was pending before the Court of Appeal. The receipt of our correspondence was duly acknowledged.”We were therefore shocked that our premises would be invaded by the Commission under whatever guise. This is condemnable and reprehensible. No one, Agency or authority should be above the laws of our country. An abuse of the law is a recipe for chaos.
Magu had in an earlier letter threatened to sue The Sun over a report published by one of our titles, pertaining to a report on investigation of a property allegedly traced to his wife. But up till now, we are yet to receive any court process.
In the light of the above, we strongly view this onslaught against The Sun as a personal vendetta by the leadership of the Commission, and by extension a declaration of war against the media.
In this invasion of our premises, it is crystal clear that what (Ibrahim) Magu and his Commission are after is not only to intimidate and muzzle us, but a furious attempt to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
On the issue of the interim order, which he purportedly based his invasion, Magu knows the matter has been on appeal since 2007 for which hearing comes up this week. But rather than wait for the court process, the Commission under the leadership of Magu, typically resorted to self-help.
We want the general public to take note of this authoritarianism and high-handedness, which has been the hallmark of Magu’s leadership of the EFCC.
The other charge of publishing Biafra, Boko Haram, and Niger Delta militant stories is very ridiculous, baseless and anti-Press freedom.
We like to state that we are neither an ethnic, political nor religious newspaper, but we are the Voice of the Nation, reflecting all sides, all views and all shades of opinion in line with the ethics of our profession.
We challenge Magu and his Commission to show where The Sun’s stories have been different from other papers in the country.
We call on well-meaning citizens and relevant authorities to restrain Magu and his Commission from taking the laws into their hands.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has however, debunked alleged molestation of staff.
Reacting to the allegation through a statement, spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, described The Sun’s allegations as diversionary.
He said: “Operatives of the EFCC in the early hours of Monday visited the head office of the Sun Newspaper in Lagos. The visit which lasted for less than an hour was part of routine efforts to ascertain the state of the assets of the publishing company which is subject of subsisting interim forfeiture order. Prior to the visit, the commission had written to the management of the company to account for its management of the assets for the period of the subsisting court order.”
He said the anti-graft agency was still awaiting the response of The Sun, and would not be distracted by any attempt to whip up sentiments by referring to an appeal which has been pending for 10 years.
He said the commission’s action was devoid of prejudice to any appeal and only meant to verify the integrity of the assets.
“Contrary to claims in a statement released to the media by the management of the Sun, no staff of the media outfit was molested or intimidated for the few minutes that operatives of the Commission spent in the premises of the company. The claim that ‘EFCC operatives subjected our staff to crude intimidation, psychological and emotional trauma, even as some of the men accused our organization of publishing pro-Biafra, Boko Haram, and Niger Delta Militant stories,’ is strange and clearly the figment of the imagination of The Sun. There was no reason to molest anybody as the commission has always related professionally with the publishing outfit.”
Uwujaren added that the attempt also to link the visit to the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu’s threat to sue the organisation over a libelous publication was also diversionary.
He said Magu was pursuing that option in his private capacity, noting that a letter written by his lawyer, Wahab Shittu, to the newspaper was widely published in the media on March 31.