- Category: Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye Esq.
- Published on Monday, 28 May 2012 10:10
- Written by Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
This morning, the Lagos State High Court, Per Justice Balogun, quashed the charges that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the EFCC, filed against me and declare me not guilty of those wicked and horrible allegations.
TOUCHED AND TORCHED BY THE HAND OF GOD
Statement of Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
Thank you, first to my children, Udechukwu and Nwakego. Thank you to my mother. Thank you to my brothers. Thank you to my lawyers. Thank you to my staff. Thank you to my friends and supporters. It is indeed a great day.
This morning, the Lagos State High Court, Per Justice Balogun, quashed the charges that the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the EFCC, filed against me and declared me not guilty of those wicked and horrible allegations. As you know, in February of 2011, having been kidnapped by the SSS and subsequently detained by the EFCC, some elements of the Nigerian Government set up some rumor about me stealing my client’s money. They could not quite do anything about that baseless rumor at that time. However, on October 26, 2011, while in Nigeria attending a trial in another trumped up charge they had filed against me, the EFCC arrested me in Abuja. They then flew me to Lagos and boasted that they owned the courts and the judges. They then proceeded to charge me with stealing and conversion in respect of the same story that had come up in February. They proceeded to detain me and torture me for two good months.
While in detention, the EFCC, working on the instruction of some Federal Government officials, sponsored a massive campaign of calumny and falsehood against me, using outfits such as the Saharareporters.com to smear me. They sponsored articles in newspapers in which they called me unprintable names and taunted me to no end. Some opportunistic individuals, motivated by personal animosity and envy joined in attacking me. Those people routinely called me a thief, embezzler, a crook and such other atrocious names and characterization that were so contrary to the facts or evidence.
It was the most difficult period of my life. Everything I ever worked for or lived for was under attack. My children and my family were targeted deliberately by the EFCC and its sponsors for destruction. My friends and clients were targeted. My law practice and businesses were decimated. My way of life was assaulted relentlessly. My health was placed in grave danger. Even my life was put in play. Darkness began to descent fast in broad-day light around me. It was a stretch of existentialist threats all round. I was placed at a point where I could have hated my own country just because of the actions of a few corrupt and power-drunk officials.
As I was put through this extreme test, up to a breaking point, my family, my friends and staff and my supporters all over the world came together with a resolve so uncommon and they refused to cower. They stood firm, took risks, even as they struggled to break the solitude I faced in my solitary detention cell. Some of my people were physically assaulted by the EFCC officials in an effort to cut me off from the world. While those on the ground fought in Lagos and Abuja, those in America and elsewhere stood firmly in my support. Even my children’s school Principal and their teachers and our church stood firmly in my support. Those who had money put it out for me. Those who had contacts began to make calls. Those who had nothing but prayers took to their knees and with a unified purpose, they lifted their voices to God for some divine intervention.
In similar vein, my fellow inmates in the cell forgot their own pains and sufferings and directed their prayers and strivings toward my freedom. In one instance, all the inmates in the Lagos cell of the EFCC went on strike to demand that I be taken out of solitary confinement. Never before in my life had I witnessed such an extraordinary act of selflessness. It inspired me greatly to see these inmates abandon their own individual struggles for freedom and instead fight for mine.
It is now a question for all those who have come across my story to wonder how it happened that an innocent man was held in prison for nothing, for over two months, by people who had no doubt of his innocence but held him all the same. For me, I have spent nights and days asking those questions. It is now for you, the citizens of Nigeria and all lovers of justice, to ask the same questions. How could they do this? And who are these people? What else are they doing in this country? And how can we stop them? Even in my darkest hours, I never lost faith in the ultimate goodness of mankind. I never waivered in my faith in poetic justice, that age-old belief that in the end justice shall prevail over injustice, and that goodness shall prevail over evil, that light will come and darkness shall disappear.
Also, I must say, throughout my period of affliction, I never lost faith in God. In fact, the peculiar circumstances of my detention became my own journey to Damascus and my own true conversion. In those dark moments in detention, I remembered the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they were saved from the fiery Babylonian execution under the mad King Nebuchadnezzar II. I also remembered the story of Daniel in the lions' den under Emperor Darius of the Persian Empire. It was particularly instructive for me that Daniel was persecuted at the instigation of others, only for those who instigated his persecution to end up in the lions' den themselves. Never forget that just after a week of Mrs. Farida Waziri’s coming to my detention cell in the middle of the night to threaten my life, she was fired and disgraced out of office, and she even had to run into exile. I believe that the same God who delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the blazing furnace and who jammed the jaws of the lions, also touched me with the same hands and rescued me from my mighty enemies. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, though the mills of God grind slowly, they grind exceedingly small. What we have seen today is the fine grain of justice right from the mills of God. It all puts my enemies and detractors to a big shame and they must now find some ugly places to hide their faces.
Though I bear no personal grudge and I believe that the God that delivered me today forbade me from seeking vengeance myself, I am aware that my enemies are still determined and their defeat today could only propel them into more vicious acts of intimidation and brutality against me and my supporters. Their evil machinations would not have ceased all of a sudden. Only yesterday, one of my detractors called me a thief in an Internet chatroom. But today, the only legitimate authority with the power to judge me has declared me innocent and declared the charges against me incompetent and without any merits. Therefore, faced with relentless enemy forces, I must urge all of you to brace yourselves and remain eternally vigilant to resist those who do nothing but plot to abuse their powers and erode the rights of the common man.
Let it be known that my victory today, though an important event, is only one step in the direction we are headed. As I speak to you now, many thousands and even millions of Nigerians are afflicted by the same forces of darkness and have been place under various conditions of limitations and deprivation and abuse. My freedom shall mean nothing to me unless I could connect it to the freedoms of these people. So, we are just beginning the match toward comprehensive justice in this land. We shall stretch our hands and touch one another until every man and every woman suffering from deprivation has experienced the restoration of rights and their human dignity. Last year when I saw the inmates willing to eat with me, care for me, fight for me despite their own problems, I made a pledge to them and their families that I would spare no efforts and no resources to ensure that their voices were heard and that they received justice themselves. Now is the time for me to step up the ongoing effort and initiatives to fight for them. Beyond that, it is my goal to ensure that no one else would suffer detention without a justifiable legal basis.
You must also understand that it takes not only the collaboration of many for injustice to thrive. It also takes the silence of many. You would remember in November of last year when all the Nigerian newspapers carried stories about the American-based lawyer who stole money. It featured in their prominent pages. Today, as I left the court declared an innocent man wrongly accused, there was no newspaper to record it. The reason is simply because the EFCC that bribed those journalists to report my humiliation in November had no reason to bribe them to report my vindication today. So, as we discuss freedom in the present day Nigeria, we must be wary of those journalists who could report a story only when and if they are bribed to do so. We may look back into the years of military rule in Nigeria and discuss the abuse of rights and the strike forces. The fact, however, is that we still have the strike forces in our midst today. The EFCC is the modern day strike force. That agency more than any other in this country threatens all tenets of liberty under the guise of fighting corruption.
It is well known to you all that right from the start, I had made my criticisms of the EFCC an open affair. Their detention of me did not stop me from speaking up against the evil they represent. And certainly the events of today will not stop me either. My opposition and criticisms of the EFCC are principles-driven. I can actually assure you that there are a few nice people in that agency. Some of them actually were nice to me at great risks to their positions. Yet, as a matter of principle, this country cannot afford an organization that thrives in corruption while pretending to fight corruption. It is not a coincidence that when the first Chairman of the EFCC’s tenure came to an end, he ran into exile claiming that his life was at stake in the hands of the Government he served. Also, when the term of the second Chairman, Mrs. Waziri, came to an ignominious end, she too fled into a temporary exile claiming that her life was in danger. While I, Emeka Ugwuonye have always submitted myself to the law even when I could have run, these people chose to run when they felt threatened by the system. Everyone, I am sure, is wondering where Mr. Lamorde is going to run to when his term is over. But he does have an opportunity to avoid having to run by doing what is right under the constitution of Nigeria. He has a chance to try to save this decadent organization and make a modern law enforcement institution. Otherwise, if he continues on the path of his immediate predecessor, he would be brought to disgrace just as she was.
As I end my address, I use this opportunity to call on President Goodluck Jonathan to stop and pay close attention to the urgent issues of civil right in this country, which is the single most important crisis bedeviling this nation. He must rescue this country from its ugly past. We had thought that the past effort with the Justice Oputa panel was genuinely going to address that question and reinvent this country from its nasty past of right abuses and atrocities, reaching all the way back to the Nigerian civil war and the events that led to it. The President must also be made to understand the linkages between corruption among his appointees and officials and the wider issues of abuses of power to which human rights abuses are a subset. There will never be peace in this land; neither shall there be progress or development until this country takes the issues of rights as fundamental enough to warrant a serious action and honest reform.
Again, I thank you for your courageous support. I shall be speaking with you again soon. And may I use this opportunity to thank a special friend in Texas. That friend is an angel who has brought so much good luck and goodwill to me within 24 hours of our encounter. Tonight, I shall be flying out of Nigeria to join other parents of the Holy Cross School in Maryland to mark my children’s graduation coming up in a couple of days. I truly have been touched by the hands of God.
May God bless you all.
Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire
May 28, 2012