On the day we commemorated the 24th anniversary of the epochal June 12, 1993, presidential poll that midwifed our current democracy, heavily armed operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, invaded THE Sun Newspapers’ head office in Lagos.
At gunpoint, they ordered the company’s security personnel to take them round, and prevented workers from entering or leaving the premises. The operatives claimed they had orders to seal off the premises. While the siege lasted, some of the operatives reportedly accused the newspaper of publishing pro-Biafra, Boko Haram and pro-Niger Delta militants’ stories, but the Commission denied the allegations.
The EFCC had in 2007 obtained an interim forfeiture order of some assets of the newspaper group in a suit against its publisher, Chief Orji Kalu. It is the subject of a pending appeal.
Earlier, the EFCC’s Acting Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had written a letter he personally signed, dated May 23rd, 2017, to THE Sun’s management regarding the interim forfeiture order. The letter requested the company’s officials to report to the Commission on June 5, 2017. The EFCC said its presence in the newspaper’s premises was a “routine check” to ascertain the conditions of its assets and denied that it stormed the media organisation over a story published in March this year which accused Mr Magu of corruption.
The EFCC as an anti-graft agency of the Federal Government is statutorily empowered to carry out its functions within the ambit of the law. Since the forfeiture order is still under litigation, we expect all parties to wait patiently for the court processes to be exhausted before taking any necessary actions. We abhor the unfriendly manner of the EFCC visit to THE Sun newspaper, which was an affront to the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the Media.
We are worried at the growing tendency of the security and anti-graft agencies of the Federal Government to carry out their jobs in ways reminiscent of our days under the jackboots of the military. This is happening for the first time since our return to democracy eighteen years ago. Never since then had the Judiciary, and now the Media, been targeted for rough-handling by agencies of the state in ways that leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
We urge the EFCC and other security and anti-graft agencies, without prejudice for the sustenance of the war on corruption, to avoid any unwinable war against the media. The anti-graft agencies and the media are partners in the protection of vital national interests. Some of the modest achievements of the EFCC since its inception would have been impossible without media support.
Let the law be enforced according to due process and respect for the courts of the land. We say no to impunity.