The Sun Sues EFCC Over Invasion Of Premises

From http://thenigerialawyer.com

The Sun Publishing Limited has prayed the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal to restrain the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, or its agents from sealing off its premises pending the hearing and determination of its appeal before the court.

The newspaper organisation took the step, following yesterday’s invasion of its head office located in Kirikiri, Lagos, by operatives of the anti-graft agency.

But the EFCC claimed that its visit was to ascertain the state of assets of the company, which it said were under a subsisting forfeiture order.

READ ALSO – https://denisaurus.com/2017/06/12/magus-led-efcc-invades-popular-publishing-office-in-lagos/

In a motion on notice filed and dated June 12, 2017, the company accused the EFCC of resorting to self-help by attempting to enforce an interim forfeiture order, which had been appealed upon.

In the motion filed by its counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), The Sun referred the court to the pending motion for stay of execution of the ex-parte interim order of forfeiture earlier granted by a Federal High Court.

The said originating summons sought inter alia, an order of the Federal High Court temporarily forfeit the assets of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia State.

Justice Chikere, according to the newspaper, had granted the interim order sought by the EFCC on July 24, 2007 without any notice to the appellant or any investigation or charge pending against the appellant.

The Sun averred that it was a duly registered publishing company in Nigeria, having a distinct legal personality, and is not an asset of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, and was not subject nor suspect of any investigation, and an accused person with any charge pending against her, and was not made a party to the proceedings before the said Federal High Court.

Its motion brought pursuant to order 4, rule 6 of the Court of Appeal rules, 2016, it is seeking an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the respondent (the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC), either by themselves, their agents, officers, servants, privies or anybody, howsoever, described from enforcing or attempting to enforce, or purporting to enforce, the ex parte interim order of forfeiture made by Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja in suit No. FHC/ABJ/M/462/07 made on July 2007 adversely affecting and against the appellant/applicant, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal.

The appellant had filed an appeal against the decision of Justice Chikere, which is still pending before the Court of Appeal.

In addition, the appellant also filed a motion for stay of execution of the ex-parte interim order made by the Federal High Court, adversely affecting the appellant/applicant, which appeal is also pending before the appellate court.

The publishing outfit has since filed her brief of arguments in this appeal and ready to prosecute the appeal, but the respondent who is out of time, filed a motion for extension of time, which is yet to be taken, and which has delayed the hearing of the appeal.

Counsel to the appellant, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), has accused the EFCC of resulting to self-help by attempting to enforce the interim order by trying to seal off the appellant/ applicant’s office premises.

He told the Court of Appeal in his motion that the resort to self-help by the EFCC will render the appeal nugatory and will amount to undue interference with the subject matter in litigation before the court.

READ ALSO – http://thenigerialawyer.com/the-sun-sues-efcc-over-invasion-of-premises/

Our position—The Sun

In a 20-paragraph supporting affidavit deposed by Alexander Ebute, the applicant traced the history of the case with respect to the ex-parte originating summons filed by the EFCC and dated July 20, 2007 .

In an earlier statement, entitled ‘’INVASION OF THE SUN PREMISES: OUR POSITION, the company said: “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 round 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, 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 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.

‘’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.”

Our visit, only to ascertain assets of company – EFCC

But the EFCC claimed that its visit was to ascertain the state of assets of the company, which it said were under a subsisting forfeiture order.

Spokesman of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, made the position of the agency known in a statement released to Vanguard last night in Abuja.

Uwujaren said the visit had nothing to do with any publication by the newspaper but was specifically geared towards determining the assets of the company.

He said: “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.”

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