Newspapers are sold on the street in Abuja, Nigeria, in May. Nigerian police raided the offices of one of the country's daily newspapers in June over a long-standing legal dispute. (AFP/Stefan Heunis)

Nigerian police raid offices of daily newspaper The Sun

July 13, 2017 4:48 PM ET

Nigerian police working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria raided the Lagos headquarters of the daily newspaper The Sun, on the morning of June 12, 2017, according to a statement by The Sun.

The paper's statement said that police ordered security staff at gunpoint to take them around the building, intimidated staff, and prevented employees from entering or leaving the premises. "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," The Sun said in its statement.

The raid came a few weeks after Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, threatened in March 2017 to sue the newspaper for libel over its reporting, according to media reports. A lawyer for Magu filed a civil suit with the high court on June 22, demanding damages over an article that Magu said defamed him, according to a report in The Sun.

A statement by the commission denied any link between the raid and Magu's statement in March on his plans to file a lawsuit, which the commission said he is doing in his capacity as a private citizen. The commission said the raid was connected to a nearly 10-year-old interim order of forfeiture on the shareholding of The Sun newspapers and that the agency was trying to "ascertain the state of the assets of the publishing company." The order relates to a lawsuit filed in 2007 against the paper's publisher, Orji Uzor Kalu, according to media reports. The 2007 case has remained under appeal since 2008, according to court documents seen by CPJ and media reports.

After the raid, The Sun filed an injunction to complain about the commission's attempts to interfere with the appeal by trying to enter the premises of The Sun, and to prevent the agency from further interference in the newspaper's operations, a legal counsel for the paper, who asked not to be named while the case is ongoing, told CPJ.

The 2007 order of forfeiture against The Sun stems from an effort to indict Kalu, a former governor of Nigeria's Abia state, the paper's legal counsel told CPJ. According to the same legal counsel, The Sun was wrongfully included in the order of forfeiture because the newspaper is an independent legal personality and not Kalu's property.

Wilson Uwujaren, a spokesperson for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, told CPJ that the commission went to The Sun "just to go there and see, verify the state of the assets." He told CPJ it was the commission's "duty" to be sure that "assets are protected."

The newspaper filed a separate injunction in 2013 to stay the forfeiture order, according to The Sun's legal counsel. The appeal, as well as the two injunctions have been adjourned until November 23, 2017.

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