Mixed reactions Saturday greeted the sealing of the corporate headquarters of Sun Newspapers by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFC.
The commission had said its action was done to avoid the dissipation of the property but eminent Nigerians said the act was done in bad faith.
They told newsmen that EFCC’s action amounted to an attack on the media, adding that there is no court order authorising what the commission did. Meanwhile, the management of Sun Newspapers said there is no legal basis for EFCC’s action, saying there is a pending appeal at the Supreme Court on the matter. The Sun management in a statement said the commission was notified of the pending appeal at the Supreme Court and advised to stay action pending hearing of the Motion for Stay of execution and the appeal.
The statement reads: “Three officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with four heavily armed policemen on Saturday, December 15, 2019, at about 10.00 arrived at the corporate headquarters of The Sun Publishing Limited at 2, Coscharis Street, Kirikiri Industrial Layout, Apapa, Lagos and put up a notice for staff and the public to keep off the premises. “The EFCC officials, who came in a white Toyota bus with registration number, ABUJA BWR-644GA, wrote on The Sun’s fence, “EFCC, keep off.” They also advised our staff to collect their personal belongings from the office as they will come back to seal the premises completely.
“We do not understand the legal basis for this EFCC action. It is on record that there is a pending appeal at the Supreme Court with Suit No: SC/546/2018 wherein The Sun Publishing Limited appealed against the judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal on the interim forfeiture order made against it by a Federal High Court in 2007 based on ex parte proceeding. The Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution were duly served on EFCC by the bailiffs of the Court.
“It is also pertinent to state that EFCC vide a letter written by Counsel to The Sun Publishing Limited, dated 22nd May 2018 and duly received by one Caleb Peter on behalf of Rotimi Jacobs & Co. was further put on notice of the pending appeal at the Supreme Court and advised to stay action in the matter pending the hearing of the Motion for Stay of execution and the appeal. “Again, it is instructive to state that The Sun Publishing Limited was not a party to the case of EFCC vs. Orji Uzor Kalu & 2 Others, so we do not see why the judgement in that case, should lead to attempt to seal The Sun Publishing Limited premises.
“Furthermore, we are aware that both Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Slok Nig Limited have since appealed the judgement delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris and a hearing date given. “We wish to reiterate that The Sun Publishing Limited is an ongoing corporate limited liability company and its shares are owned by various individuals distinct from Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
Therefore, the recent judgement against Senator Orji Uzor Kalu should not be used to disturb the operations of the company and the proprietary rights of its innocent shareholders until the matters are dispensed with at the Supreme Court. “In view of the foregoing, we call and appeal to the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to urgently intervene and advise EFCC appropriately on the legal
Our action is legal, says EFCC
Defending its action, EFCC Spokesperson, Mr. Wilson Uwujeren, said the move followed an order by the Federal High Court in Lagos to wound up assets belonging to Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited. Kalu, a senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, was last week sentenced to 12 years in prison for an N7.65 billion fraud by the same court.
The statement partly reads: “The marking is to ensure that the properties are not dissipated, following the December 5, 2019 order of Justice Muhammed Idris sitting at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos that Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, be wound up and all assets forfeited to the Federal Government.’’ Irked by the development eminent Nigerians urged the media to resist any attempt at muzzling press freedom.
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