Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Lawyers for the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, have deposed to an affidavit where they insisted that a former President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Ayo Salami, had actually expressed regrets to head the Presidential Judicial Commission probing their client.
In a sworn affidavit dated October 2, entitled “Affidavit of Truth”, the lawyers chronicled the events that took place at the venue of the panel’s sitting located at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, where they alleged Justice Salami made the disputed statement.
Justice Salami had in a statement on Tuesday said he has no reasons to regret his appointment as Chairman of the probe panel that is currently investigating allegations against Ibrahim Magu, bordering on abuse of office and mismanagement of Federal Government recovered assets and finances from May 2015 to May 2020.
In the statement which he personally signed, Justice Salami described as ‘false and mischievous reports circulating in the media,’ about his purported regrets to head the probe panel.
The retired Jurist said the false reports are aimed at causing mischief and tarnishing his hard-earned reputation and integrity.
‘Ordinarily, I would not have dignified the purveyors of this falsehood with any form of rebuttal, but the need to put the records straight and expose their barefaced lies has necessitated my response,’ he said.
‘No claims can be further from the truth than the outright falsehood contained in the said report.
‘The reports were a figment of the wild imagination of the reporter, the two lawyers quoted as his sources and the medium that published the story.
‘There was no time anything near the unthinkable scenario painted in the false story occurred in any meeting between myself and the lawyers to Magu or any other person, for that matter, since the Judicial Commission of Inquiry began its sittings.
‘I have no cause to express any regret over my Chairmanship of the Commission, not to talk of betraying any form of emotion before anyone about it.’
However, the lawyers in a sworn court affidavit insisted that the former president of the Court of Appeal actually expressed regrets on his appointment as chairman of the probe panel.
The said affidavit sworn by Zainab Abiola, a legal practitioner stated: ‘On the 25th September 2020, at about 11:35 am, I was at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock with my client, the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu and our team of lawyers including Tosin Ojaomo and Wahab Shittu.
‘That our mission was to defend our client and accord him legal representation, at the ongoing panel of investigation, as enshrined in the 1999 constitution (as amended), in order to enforce his fundamental human rights as a free citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
‘That on simultaneously entering the panel room upstairs, first floor, and seeing the chairman, Justice Ayo Salami (retd) and the members of the panel, we all greeted each other most respectfully.
‘That the general atmosphere was one of expectation from everyone in the room that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), would honour the panel’s invitation to appear before it.
‘That soon after, the chairman of the panel expressed his regrets and said amongst other things the following specific words: “I regret chairing this panel, honestly. Since 2013 I retired and went back to my place. What is all this? It is embarrassing, very embarrassing.”
‘That Barrister Tosin went up to him and specifically said the following words: “Your Lordship please don’t be embarrassed and don’t abdicate. This is a national assignment and we are all here for Justice.” Everyone nodded in agreement.’
Meanwhile, a group, Jurist Watchers International (JWI) has questioned the credibility of the press statement purportedly issued by Justice Salami refuting media reports over the issue.
In a statement by its Co-ordinator, Abraham Winford, the group noted that both the contents and language employed in the said letter did not befit the status of the retired Jurist.
While attributing the letter to some mischief-makers, the group said ‘the deployment of Justice Salami’s English language as reflected in his judgments is antithetical to that of the mischief-makers who are behind the unsigned letter.