President Muhammadu Buhari had on July 10 ordered the suspension of the embattled acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, a pioneer member of staff of the anti- corruption body.
The essence of the suspension, according to presidential statements, was to allow the Justice Ayo Salami- led Presidential Panel have unfettered access to probe the allegations of diversion of funds and re-looting of seized assets against Magu.
The panel, a judicial commission of inquiry, reportedly came into being on July 3.The panel had 45 days starting from the day of inauguration to turn in their report.
The President, in place of Magu, a commissioner of Police, directed the director of Operations of the commission, Mohammed Umar, to take charge of the leadership of the anti-graft agency pending further directives. 12 officials – investigators and prosecutors – of the agency we real so suspended.
Prior to Magu’s suspension, he was arrested and detained on the
orders of the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for nine days at Area 10 of the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) Police Command, following a directive from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who has accused Magu of corruption and insubordination.
He was later released on bail after which much has not been heard from his side being the epicentre of the whole probe saga which is being conducted behind closed doors as against the clamour by a vast majority of Nigerians that the proceedings of the panel be made open in order to encourage transparency, fair-hearing, fairness and equity to all the parties concerned.
Although the panel had claimed it’s not bound to make its proceedings open to the public going by the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act (CAP T21, LFN, 2004), it’s, however, curious to know that going by the latest letter by Magu’s counsel, Wahab Shittu, to the panel, Magu has not been allowed to access the documents, exhibits, records and proceedings from the panel in order to allow him prepare his defence
against the alleged crimes slammed against him.
Shittu, in the latest letter to the panel, had claimed the request for access to documents and demand that his client be served a copy of the charges against him in order to allow him prepare for his defence, were all in compliance with Section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution(as amended).
In spite of his several letters to the panel demanding access to the documents detailing his alleged crimes, the panel has yet to accede to Magu’s request.
While the embattled suspended EFCC chairperson continues to demand fair hearing , several media reports last week Wednesday indicated that Salami, a former President of the Court of Appeal, had submitted his first preliminary report to the appointing authority recommending that Magu’s appointment be terminated outright, to be followed by immediate prosecution.
As of the time of writing this, the panel has neither disowned nor confirmed the authenticity of the report so with the Presidency which further lends credence to the fact that the panel may have rounded off proceedings without giving Magu the opportunity to defend himself against the slew of allegations levelled against him.
The reported submission of the preliminary report has raised more questions than answers. One, how could the panel have submitted its report without taking the defence of the accused in respect to the principle of fair hearing as enshrined in the Constitution?
Two, as permitted by law in a case of this nature, why was Magu’s counsel not allowed to cross-examine the witnesses and accusers called to testify against him?
Meanwhile, a source to close to one of the panel members had claimed that the chairman of the panel, Salami, shouts down on other members who have contrary opinions to his.
He also alleged that the panel has been scouting for petitioners on matters the EFCC is handling.
Some questions begging for answers include:
“Why is the panel inviting suspects facing EFCC trial? What is the basis of the panel’s invitation to a senior lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), a lawyer that is defending those who are under EFCC’s investigations and trial? Is it not curious that while the lawyer to Magu, Wahab Shittu, deliberately refused to disclose what transpired before the panel, Ozekhome and Obla issued statements and made public what transpired before the panel?
“What is the propriety of the panel’s invitation to a disgruntled official of the EFCC to come and testify against Magu while the said Dalhatu is under investigation for misconduct and fraternizing with suspects?
What is the justification for the panel’s invitation of another senior lawyer, Godwin Obla (SAN), who is currently facing EFCC’s trial with an indicted judge of the Federal High Court?
There is the need to ask this important question: Has any witness testified that he or she gave xyz amount to Magu in order to compromise cases before him?
“Why is it that the Salami-led panel is yet to serve and confront Magu with all the allegations against him and what are the terms of reference of the panel?
– Amusat writes from Lagos.
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