The Sun responds
•At the time of this statement, neither The Sun Publishing Limited nor any of the numerous companies owned or associated with Kalu were put on notice before the order was obtained nor were served with the court order, leaving us in The Sun completely in the dark as to what our offences were beyond our association with the targeted Orji Uzor Kalu.
•By Monday afternoon, however, our bankers notified us that the company's accounts at various banks have been blocked on the order of EFCC, pursuant to this court order. By Wednesday morning, the same order had been passed round to other banks where we have accounts. The result is that the newspaper group has been denied access to funds to finance its daily operations even though legal experts have informed us that such actions fly in the face of due process and intent of the relevant EFCC Act.
•Although we have since briefed our lawyers to take up the matter, our informal investigations indicate that the latest attack on us might not be unconnected with an old and jaded allegation that some cheques were drawn in the name of THE NEW REPUBLIC, the original name under which THE SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED was incorporated in 2001, but which name was changed to THE SUN Publishing Limited at the last quarter of the same year at the instance of the two executive directors.
•The change of the company name became inevitable when the executive directors changed the editorial niche of the newspaper from a hard political newspaper which was earlier conceived to a broad market publication which was considered a better business proposition. It was reasoned that THE SUN was a more acceptable name for a sales-driven newspaper than NEW REPUBLIC which sounds too rigid.
•Before the change of name, however, a pre-operational account in the old name of THE NEW REPUBLIC NEWSPAPERS LIMITED was opened on August 1, 2001. The account domiciled at Diamond Bank was later changed to The SUN Publishing Limited and has remained so till date.
•However, prior to the date this account was opened, the EFCC investigators allege that two cheques were drawn from a NEW REPUBLIC NEWSPAPERS LIMITED account in another bank.
•Incidentally, we have also learnt that, in the course of its investigations, the EFCC actually found out that none of the registered directors or legal signatories of the then NEW REPUBLIC/The SUN Publishing Limited account either signed or received the said cheques.
•In any case, the details of our banking transactions which had repeatedly been investigated by the commission indicated that no such alleged cheques ever passed through our accounts.
•It was therefore a huge surprise to us that in the heat of the third term debate and Kalu's opposition to it, photocopies of the alleged cheques were leaked to a news magazine which reported that The SUN Publishing Limited, was set up with Abia State government money, even when there is no foundation to such blatant falsehood as evidenced by all our bank records.
•Also noteworthy is that up to this moment, no director of THE SUN has ever been questioned in connection with the alleged cheques transactions obviously because EFCC’s various investigations vindicated our position.
•We suspect that, having gone through our bank statements as THE SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED since August 2001 and finding nothing against us, our persecutors have fallen back on spurious cheques issue. To us, mysterious cheques have become a veritable bogeyman that could be waved at whims.
•Perhaps, unknown to our traducers, the premises, warehouses and the machines were already in place over a year before the date of the mysterious cheques came up.
•That meant that the bulk of the facilities on ground at the premises of The SUN PUBLISHING LIMITED either predates THE NEW REPUBLIC - some of them going as far back as the late I980s when Kalu published a title called EVERY WOMAN.
•Whatever the circumstances of the anti-Kalu onslaught on THE SUN notwithstanding, we must state it here and now that we, as a company, have done nothing wrong.
•We have run our company in keeping with the business best practices and are proud of our professional integrity. We consider it a credit that even though we are now arguably the most scritinised organization in our industry, we are still waxing strong, unbroken and unbowed.
•We are simply humbled by the amazing grace of God upon our organization and believe that despite all our travails, in the end, God will vindicate the just.
•We, therefore, have every reason to believe that the latest move against THE SUN has nothing to do with any genuine effort to locate funds from Abia State government. Rather it is a political persecution and an effort to shut up a publication that has evolved to represent the authentic "Voice of the Nation" and give vent to otherwise muzzled opposition perspective to issues and policies of government. That is why we are shocked that the system could allow for the granting of an exparte motion of this magnitude without, first of all, insisting that the parties involved be put on notice.
•May we, however, remind our persecutors that contrary to their belief that THE SUN is all about equipment and fixed assets, THE SUN is actually an idea. A great idea! And, as the old saying goes, there is no army strong enough to stop the growth and blossom of a great idea.
•We are convinced that, no matter what anybody else says, the root of the current onslaught against us is the aborted Third Term ambition of the immediate past president. When we took a principled stand to oppose the evil agenda, we knew that there would be both economic and political price to pay. Like the sacrificial lamb, we are ready for it. However, we emphasize that those who find themselves in public office today must resist the temptation of putting their ego ahead of them and, in the process, personalise state policies.
•As for Kalu, we are of the conviction that there is a lynch mob out there to destroy him seemingly at all costs. We, therefore, fear for his life, and are appealing to all well-meaning Nigerians and the international community to join hands and ensure that Kalu is not killed in detention the same way anti-democratic elements eliminated Chief MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential elections.
THE SUN MANAGEMENT
The EFCC Story
The commission said that eight of the accounts were in the United States and Senegal. The other accounts were operated in five Nigerian banks. The list of the accounts was in an affidavit attached to charges against Kalu before a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Anwuli Chikere. The accounts were in the names of companies owned by the former governor and some of his alleged cronies.
In the affidavit, which was obtained exclusively by THE PUNCH on Wednesday, the EFCC said Kalu also had three vessels and 10 landed properties in some parts of the country. The affidavit was sworn to by Ibrahim Magu, the leader of the investigation team that probed alleged corrupt acts by Kalu.
The affidavit reads, “That the other directors of these companies are Kalu’s wife, children, mother and brothers. That Kalu is also the majority shareholder in some other companies such as Reality Organisation and Firmbase International Ltd. That Abia State Government funds running into billions of naira in banks were withdrawn and converted into drafts in favour of Slok Nigeria Ltd account for the personal use of Kalu. That Abia State Government funds were also moved into the account of Reality Organisaton Nigeria Limited and Firmbas International Limited.
“That Abia State Government contracts were awarded to companies in which Kalu had cronies, agents, associates and such include, Zerock Construction Ltd, Hitech Construction Ltd, Hapel Nigea Ltd and Udex Nig. Ltd. That these contractors used by Kalu during his tenure as governor also obtained several drafts and lodged same into the accounts of Slok Nigeria Limited. That the funds that were lodged into Slok Nigeria Limited accounts were used by Kalu to finance the purchase of three vessesls owned by Slok Shipping Company, Slok Airlines and the acquisition of The Republic, which was renamed as The Sun Publishing Limited.
“That Kalu, also while in office, acquired properties in The Gambia, including Tiangi Holiday Resort, an estate, and First International Bank.”
The commission said that it sought to freeze the accounts and the landed properties because the former governor and his cronies made moves to sell them. The EFCC said that if the properties in question were not forfeited to the Federal Government, they would be sold, thereby jeopardising the criminal charges against Kalu.
The EFCC said that before Kalu became governor, he incorporated some companies, including Slok. It said that even when he became governor, he continued to operate the companies as a major shareholder and director, contrary to his oath of office.
In a proof of evidence also attached to the charge sheet, the EFCC claimed that the former Commissioner for Finance in Abia State, Mr. Moses Agoh, confessed that Kalu had substantial interests in banks in The Gambia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
The EFCC said that Agoh, in his statement dated November 1, 2006, added that Kalu talked him into investing in the banks. The former commissioner, according to the EFCC, also listed two Nigerians and four foreigners as directors of the banks.
The EFCC quoted him on page four of his statement, as saying, “I am a shareholder in First International Bank in The Gambia. The (former) governor of Abia State (Kalu) is also a shareholder. The bank was incorporated in 1998 and that was the year I became a shareholder. The (former) governor was the person who invited me to invest in the bank. Since the bank in The Gambia is a shareholder in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, my share ownership will then extend to those countries.”