The Sun Publishing Limited said on Monday that anti-graft officials from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, invaded its head office in Lagos, disrupting operation.
The company, which publishes The Sun, Saturday Sun, Sunday Sun and other titles, said the development had more to do with suffocating free press in Nigeria than law enforcement, calling on citizens to take a strong stand in support of its freedom to operate as an independent publication.
“We call on well-meaning citizens and relevant authorities to restrain Magu and his Commission from taking the laws into their hands,” the paper said in a statement published on its website Monday afternoon.
The paper said the EFCC operatives were heavily armed upon arrival, which made its staff, who were barely settling down at work after the weekend, become panicky to the point of trauma.
“For one gruelling hour, EFCC operatives subjected our staff to crude intimidation, psychological and emotional trauma,” it said.
A spokesperson for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, did not immediately have words for PREMIUM TIMES about the development Monday evening, telling this newspaper he would call back after taking a few seconds to understand the nature of our inquiry.
Although The Sun acknowledged a grounded history between its management and the anti-graft agency —citing an ongoing court case and potential defamation charges — it, nonetheless, remained bewildered about the raid.
“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, Chief Chris Uche SAN, wrote the Commission to intimate the Agency that the issue was pending before the Court of Appeal,” the paper said, adding that the EFCC confirmed receipt of the correspondence from its lawyers.
“We were therefore shocked that our premises would be invaded by the Commission under whatever guise,” the paper said. “This is condemnable and reprehensible.”
“No one, Agency or authority should be above the laws of our country.”
Mr. Kalu had faced fraud charges since he stood down from office as Abia State governor after a two-term tenure in 2007.
He was initially arraigned and granted bail at the time. But the case went cold for the ensued years.
This year, the EFCC resumed active prosecution of the alleged fraud case, which involved about N3.2 billion.
In another instance, The Sun highlight a legal threat issued by Mr. Magu in a defamation dispute earlier this year.
PREMIUM TIMES reported the libel claimslate March.
In a notice letter to The Sun on March 31, Mr. Magu threatened to sue The Sun for N5 billion after pointedly accusing the paper of “libellous imputations and statements” against his person.
The EFCC chief was pushing back against the allegations contained in a story the paper published a few days earlier on March 25.
The story linked Mr. Magu’s wife to two houses in the exquisite Abuja neighbourhood of Maitama, citing unnamed sources who purportedly said the properties were secured shortly after Mr. Magu assumed office as acting chairman.
The Sun editors declined to acknowledge receipt of any correspondence from Mr. Magu’s legal representatives when PREMIUM TIMES reached out to them for comments in March.
They said they would forward any notice from Mr. Magu to their lawyers.
“There’s nothing I want to say about that other than that if there’s any letter from Mr. Magu the company will invite its lawyers who will look at the issue,” Femi Babafemi, editor of Saturday Sun whose title was responsible for the story, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone March 31.
The Sun also declined to categorically say if it will stand by its story whose facts were unequivocally disputed by Mr. Magu.
“I’ve just told you what I need to tell you,” Mr. Babafemi said.
In its statement Monday, The Sun said of Mr. Magu’s defamation threat: “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,” it added.
The paper said it was also accused by EFCC of “publishing Biafra, Boko Haram and Niger Delta militant stories,” a charge it dismissed as “very ridiculous, baseless and anti-Press freedom.”
“We challenge Magu and his Commission to show where The Sun’s stories have been different from other papers in the country,” it said.
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