Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has asked the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel investigating him to summon the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami to appear before it.
Mr Magu anchored his request on the constitutional principles of fair hearing as provided under section 36 of the amended document.
The AGF had in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari recommended the sacking of Mr Magu over alleged infractions in office.
Mr Malami, in a memorandum to the President, anchored his recommendation on several grounds ‘ranging from diversion of recovered loot to insubordination and misconduct.’
Acting on the letter, the President constituted a probe panel led by a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami (retd.) with seven other members, including the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Mr Mike Ogbizi.
The panel, which also had representatives from the Office of the National Security Adviser, the DSS and other related agencies, has since commenced its investigation into Mr Magu.
However, in two separate letters by his counsel, Mr Wahab Shittu, the suspended anti-corruption czar argued that it was pertinent and necessary for the AGF, whose petition formed the basis of his investigation by the panel, to be invited to tender documents.
The letters dated August 4, 2020, also prayed the panel to recall ‘several witnesses who appeared and testified before this judicial commission of inquiry at the time’ he ‘was not allowed to participate in the proceedings and cross-examine such witnesses.’
Mr Magu in the letters, which were cited by our correspondent, expressed the need to confront Mr Malami with the allegations he made against him before the probe panel.
Speaking on the said letters, his lawyer clarified that the requests were made in line with the spirit of fair hearing guaranteed under section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution.
According to Mr Shittu, his client is legally entitled to be confronted with the allegations leveled against him, especially by Mr Malami, who he described as his ‘main accuser’.
Part of the letter reads:
‘We believe that consistent with the fundamental principles of fair hearing as guaranteed under Section 36 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
‘Our client is entitled to be confronted with copies of allegations against him as well as the opportunity to confront his main accuser (in this case, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation) to enable our client raise issues concerning the allegations and cross-examine the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation on the substance and credibility of his allegations against our client’
While placing reliance on section 36(a), (b), (c) and (d) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), Mr Shittu submitted that:
‘Based on the foregoing, we humbly request that the Honourable Attorney General who is the main accuser in these proceedings be graciously invited to give evidence in connection with the subject matter of this inquiry with specific reference to our client in the interest of fair hearing.
‘We believe this request ought to be resolved before our client is called upon to enter his defence in these proceedings.’
Meanwhile, a copy of the proposed subpoena attached to the letter sent to the Justice Salami panel stated that Mr Malami was ‘expected to give evidence on his allegations against Ibrahim Magu.’
Mr Shittu stated that his client expected Mr Malami to appear in the panel to testify on his allegations including, that the ‘Acting Chairman of EFCC is not acting in the overall best interest of the country and the policies of this administration due to its mismanagement and lack of transparency in managing recovered assets.’
He also asked that Mr Malami testify on his allegation of ‘diversion of recovered assets for personal enrichment; neglecting to investigate the P&ID case as directed by the President; and flagrant disobedience to directives and to court orders.’
The lawyer further sought Mr Malami’s testimony on the “Final Report Of The Presidential Committee on Audit Of Recovered Assets (PCARA): Mismanagement and Lack of Transparency in Managing Recovered Assets”.
He noted that the application for issuance of summons against Mr Malami ‘ought to be resolved before our client is called upon to enter his defence in these proceedings.’
In another letter seeking the recall of witnesses who had testified before the panel in the absence of his client, Mr Shittu stated that:
‘Our client is entitled to participate in the entirety of the proceedings including afforded the opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses in these proceedings.’
He asked the panel to give ‘guidance on specific procedure, schedule, and timeline earmarked for the defence to enable our client adequately prepare and call relevant and material witnesses/documentary evidence ahead of his defence in the proceedings.’