While Nigerian Guild of Editors, Nigerian Union of Journalists and the Sun management condemn the invasion of the Sun Publishing Limited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the anti-graft agency says its visit was to assess the value of the company in relation to an ongoing litigation
THE Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, and the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, have condemned the invasion of The Sun Publishing Limited on Monday, June12 by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
In separate statements issued by the two organisations, they said the Gestapo-style siege on the building of the Sun newspaper was unwarranted. “The fierce looking operatives prevented staff of the organisation from either entering or leaving the premises of the company and disrupted the circulation processes,” the NGE said in a statement signed by Funke Egbemode, its president, adding that the “unwarranted siege to the company subjected staff of the organisation to crude intimidation, psychological and emotional trauma.”
The EFCC had accused THE SUN of publishing pro-Biafra, Boko Haram and Niger Delta militant stories.
The guild said further: “The latest action of the EFCC on a newspaper house is a sad reminder of the dark years of military dictatorship and a deliberate effort to muzzle the press.
“As a statutory agency birthed by an Act of Parliament in a democracy, we had expected the EFCC to explore civil means of addressing perceived infraction by a critical stakeholder in the Nigerian democratic project.
“Rather than see the Fourth Estate of the Realm as an opposition, the Commission should realise that the media is an indispensable partner in its fight against corruption.”
Thus, the Guild enjoined the EFCC “to purge itself of all anti-democratic tendencies in order to foster mutual cooperation with the media and other stakeholders in its crusade against graft.” It also demanded an apology from the commission to the Sun Publishing Limited.
While also demanding a similar apology from the EFCC, the NUJ in a statement signed by
Deji Elumoye, chairman of the council, said that should the commission fail to tender public apology to The Sun Newspaper and the NUJ, the body of journalists would be left with on other option than pressing charges in court against the EFCC for stifling the press and infringing on the rights of the affected workers of the media organisation.
The union frowned at the audacity of the EFCC to ransack the premises of the media organisation without a search warrant, while it also subjected innocent workers to unnecessary harassment and stress.
The statement said in part: “This is a great violation of the freedom of movement and association of the affected Nigerian citizens as entrenched in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended”. The Council, therefore, gives EFCC a 72-hour ultimatum to publicly apologise to The Sun management and the affected staff for the unwarranted siege “failure which we will not hesitate to ask our team of lawyers to seek redress in court.”
The Lagos NUJ reasoned that if The Sun newspaper had erred or had issues with the EFCC or anybody/organisation, the court of law should have been the proper place to seek redress “rather than taking the laws into their hands as EFCC just did.”
In reaction to the invasion which was deemed as an infringement on the freedom of the media by the EFCC, the management of The Sun in a statement noted that the attack was to cow the media over personal issues Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the EFCC, had against the publication.
According to the Sun, Magu had, on March 30, through his lawyer, written the management of the publication threatening to sue the Sun over what he called unfavourable report published in The Sun of March 25, where newspaper investigation uncovered an allegation that ownership of certain property in Abuja was traceable to Magu’s wife
The report had indicated that the development called for concern over the image of the head of the nation’s anti corruption body.
Although Magu in the letter had promised to sue in relation to the report, he never got in touch with The Sun and neither did the EFCC come with any court processes or order during the invasion.
The Sun statement said in part: “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 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.”
Besides, the Sun management also recalled that there was a pending litigation between it and the EFCC that started in 2007 when the commission invaded The Sun.
“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. The matter would come up for hearing later this week.
“We also recall that the acting chairman of the EFCC, 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 the interim order of forfeiture under appeal
“As law abiding corporate citizen, our lawyer, Chief 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.”
Reacting, the anti-graft agency said the Sun management was the one at fault. In a statement signed by Wilson Uwujaren, its spokesman, said that it was not an invasion but a visit by the commission to assess the status of the assets of the company, which according to it, was subject of an interim forfeiture.
The commission said that it had formally asked the Sun Publishing Limited to forward the assessment of its properties to the EFCC, but there was no response and that in any case, the visit to the newspaper organisation lasted less than one hour.
The EFCC statement said in part: “The visit, which lasted for less 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.
“The commission still awaits the response of The Sun and will not be distracted by any attempt to whip up sentiments by alluding to an appeal which has been pending for ten years.
“The commission’s action is without 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. The attempt also to link the visit to the acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu’s threat to sue the organization over a libellous publication is also diversionary.
“Magu is pursuing that option in his private capacity and his lawyer, Wahab Shittu, did write The Sun and his letter was widely published in the media on March 31, 2017.”
— Jun 13, 2017 @ 14:55 GMT