HURIWA carpets EFCC on sealing off of Sun Newspaper; *says Orji Uzor Kalu is a victim of anti-Igbo vigilante justice

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A frontline Civil Rights Advocacy group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has described the reported sealing of Daily Sun newspaper by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as unjust and unfair given that the newspaper as a business entity was not part of the parties to the suit in which the former Abia state governor was convicted by the Federal High Court over fraud of N7 billion.

The group has also asked the acting chairman of EFCC Ibrahim Magu to show professionalism and stop the POLITICAL media showmanship of jubilating all over the place over the conviction of the former Abia State governor as if to say there is a hidden agenda that the conviction has helped to achieve for some political interest in the corridors of power. HURIWA said the only time committed patriots will applaud the EFCC is when some of those who are ministers today despite their accusations by the anti-graft agency as having committed series of corruption related offences are arrested, prosecuted and convicted just as the group condemned the withdrawal of the charges against Senator Danjuma Goje.

HURIWA has also stated that the trial and conviction of the former Abia State governor is insufficient to acclaim that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and President Muhammadu Buhari led administration was carrying out forensic anti- Corruption warfare but only goes to show that the erstwhile governor who is also the Senate Chief Whip elected under the platform of the ruling national party of All Progressives Congress (APC) is a political victim of anti-Igbo vigilante justice and the SELECTIVE justice being practiced actively by the current Federal government. HURIWA however stated that it supports fair trials of all suspected fraudsters in government but certainly not the current selective prosecution of politicians who are considered as threats to the political agenda of some Northerners in the 2023 Presidential race which has since started generating steam.

HURIWA has also expressed shock and consternation that the President of the Court of Appeal Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa has dabbled into the political fray of jubilating over the conviction of the former Abia State governor even when she is aware that as a citizen of Nigeria covered under the Nigerian Constitution Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has a right of Appeal up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and indeed the embattled Senate Chief Whip has reportedly appealed his conviction which was done by a judge who although was elevated to the appelate court’s bench rather took special permission from the President of the Court of Appeal to step down from his rightful place at the Court of Appeal and to conclude that matter in the court below as if to say there was a clinically plotted agenda somewhere to jail the ex-governor by all means.

The Rights group said as one of those who believed in the sanctity of the Constitution and as a civil Rights advocacy group that works for equality of rights, social justice, equity and fairness, it supports the qualitative, non-biased and fair prosecution of all allegedly corrupt politically exposed persons so the stolen public fund are refunded to those specific states from where the heist happened whilst the convicts were in political office, it however expressed reservation that the conviction of Orji Uzor Kalu may have some political connotation and may not be too far from the politics of the 2023 elections in which supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari in the North are vigorously campaigning for the office of the President to still remain in the North and for which the Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu is known to have opposed vigorously insisting that he doesn’t support third term agenda neither does he support that office of the President should still not rotate to the South but be in the North.

“Orji Uzor Kalu has also alleged victimization because he opposed the retaining of the Presidency in the North in 2023 and it would seem there is an ongoing jubilation amongst key Northern politicians which has unfortunately reached the EFCC and the Court of Appeal with the Acting chairman of EFCC and President of the Court of Appeal making heavy media shows of this specific conviction of erstwhile governor of Abia state against clear provisions of the ethics of the offices which impose on them the obligation to maintain and manifest the highest sense and attribute of non-biased and non-partisan leadership.”

HURIWA absolutely condemns the attempt by the EFCC under Ibrahim Magu who has a personal grudge against the Sun Newspaper over alleged libel for which the acting chairman of EFCC sued the newspaper to court only for the same EFCC under the leadership of Ibrahim Magu to embark on the illegal vendetta of sealing off the premises of Sun newspapers over an unrelated matter to the conviction of Orji Uzor Kalu even when the newspaper house was never joined or mentioned as a defendant in that suit.

HURIWA expressed shock that the EFCC could embark on this illegal marking of the Sun newspaper ssets in Lagos when there is a pending appeal before the Supreme court of Nigeria in a separate suit unrelated to the suit in which the former Abia State governor was convicted and for which he has challenged his conviction and that of his other firm known as Slok Nigeria limited.

HURIWA has therefore asked the EFCC to respect the Constitution and await the decision of the SUPREME court of Nigeria on the suit between EFCC and sun newspapers.

Relatedly, HURIWA has carpeted the President of the Court of Appeal Zainab Bulkachuwa for taking a position on the trial of the former governor of Abia state by stating that the trial of former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was concluded on time due to strict compliance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015.

HURIWA recalled that the President of theCourt of Appeal reportedly said the effective implementation of the law will curb criminal trial delays even as she was reported to have recalled that before the law was enacted, Kalu’s and others’ trial lasted for over 10 years due to interlocutory appeals that suspended proceedings at the lower courts even as the media reported that the Senator who represents Abia North was re-arraigned under the law on October 31, 2016and that he was convicted on December 5 even as it was reported that the Justice of the Court of Appeal who is expected to appoint the panel to hear ORJI UZOR KALU’s appeal recalled that the ACJA abolished stay of proceedings pending appeals’ determination.

HURIWA stated that Justice Bulkachuwa said: “I was part of the making of the ACJA. I have witnessed its implementation. I was interested in what will come out of it.

“I had the chance to fully participate when applications were made by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), Federal Ministry of Justice and other prosecuting bodies, that our Justices, who were elevated to the Court of Appeal, be given fiats to go back to the various High Courts and conclude the case they have started.”

“First, we had to determine at what stage they could go in. After looking at the ACJA, we saw that once all the prosecution’s witnesses have testified, there will be no need to start the matter de novo (start afresh) again. We felt it was more in the interest of justice to have the matter completed…The most recent is that of Justice (Mohammed) Idris when he completed the case of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.”

HURIWA CONDEMNS the undue jubilation by the Appeal Court President over the conviction of the erstwhile governor when she is aware that it is prejudicial given that the same matter will come before her on appeal. What is the guarantee that the Court of Appeal under her can guarantee fair hearing to the Appelant Orji Uzor Kalu given that his conviction has been made a reference point of the milestones of the President of the Court of Appeal by the jurist herself?”

HURIWA also asked the Federal Government to explain to Nigerians why the same government that concluded the trial of Orji Uzor Kalu and the Court has determined that he indeed looted the resources of his home state of Abia, is the same administration under which Senator Danjuma Goje a former governor of Gombe State was reportedly pardoned of the then pending charges of multibillion alleged fraud by the EFCC just so he can reportedly withdraw from the contest to become the Senate President in the current dispensation which made way for the candidate of President Muhammadu Buhari Senator Ahmed Lawan.

HURIWA stated that also the former governors of Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states had their charges by EFCC overlooked just so they can be appointed as ministers in the current cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Rights group stated that on August 7th 2016 the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission announced that it was intensifying investigation on ex-Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Sen. Godswill Akpabio.

HURIWA recalled that the the EFCC was said to be investigating allegations that the former governor embezzled N108bn during his tenure between 2007 and 2015.

HURIWA recalled that as reported, already, the anti-graft agency had wrote to five banks demanding information on Akwa Ibom State finances under Akpabio’s administration.

HURIWA recalled that a source at the EFCC told the media thus, “We have written to Zenith Bank, Keystone Bank, FCMB, Skye Bank, and UBA demanding information on the state’s accounts. We are also inviting the accountant-general, the auditor-general, the Speaker and the clerk of the House of Assembly. We have traced some houses to the former governor in Lagos and Abuja and it is just a matter of time before we seize them.” Why has this same person become a saint in the eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari or has the matter been politically settled because he cross carpeted to APC and helped the President to fight off PDP in the 2019 hotly contested Presidential election?

HURIWA has therefore stated that the SELECTIVE PROSECUTION for alleged crimes against their states by ex-governors under the current administration is unconstitutional and illegal.

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