20 February 2018

Nigeria: AGF Queries Magu Over CCT Chair's Trial

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has queried the head of Nigeria's anti-graft agency, Ibrahim Magu, for filing fraud charges against a federal judge whom he said had been cleared of the charges previously.

Also queried was a top lawyer, Festus Keyamo (SAN), who took the brief to prosecute the judge.

The EFCC filed two criminal charges against the chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Justice Danladi Umar.

Ibrahim Magu, acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Lagos lawyer, Keyamo were asked to respond to the query latest today, Monday.

The query was signed by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata.

The EFCC boss was asked to explain what informed the filing of the charges against the tribunal chairman having been cleared of corruption allegation, two times by the same EFCC.

The query titled, "FRN Vs Danladi Umar (CR/109/18) request for Briefing," read in part: "I am directed by the Attorney General of the Federation to seek clarification from you as to whether the charges were filed on your instruction or directive and if in the affirmative, what is the compelling basis for doing so. This clarification becomes imperative in view of the following background facts.

"The Commission's investigation report dated 5th March 2015 addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation stated as follows: "The facts as they are now against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute.

"The Commission's position in paragraph 2(a) above was also maintained and sustained by the Attorney General of the Federation while appearing before the House of Representatives' Investigative Committee sometimes in 2015 to the effect that report of investigations showed that the allegations against Justice Danladi Umar were based on mere suspicions.

"In view of the foregoing, the AGF requests for your prompt briefing as to the existence of new facts which are contrary to the position in your attached investigation report, sufficient evidence or other developments upon which the prosecution of Justice Danladi can be successfully based.

"Kindly accord this letter top priority while your prompt response within 48 hours from the receipt of same is required in the circumstances," the query said.

Also, in a separate letter to Keyamo (SAN), who was purportedly engaged as a private lawyer by Magu to prosecute the CCT boss the lawyer to AGF requested to confirm who authorized him to file the corruption charge against Umar.

Equally, Keyamo was given till close of work today to furnish the office of the AGF in writing, details of who engaged or issued him with authority to file the corruption charges.

The letter to Keyamo with reference No DPP/ADV:369/15, dated February 16, 2018, which was also signed by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary read in part: "The attention of the Attorney General of the Federation was drawn to news report that you have filed charges of corruption against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Hon. Justice Danladi Umar, before the FCT High Court."

The letter requested Keyamo to furnish the office of the AGF with details of the instruction or authorization upon which he filed the case under reference before the end of work today.

The anti-graft agency had, in two separate letters to the federal government through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in 2015 and 2016 cleared Umar of any wrongdoing in the N10 million bribery allegation made against him by a defendant, Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi standing trial before him on false assets declaration.

Upon receipt of the petition from Owolabi, the EFCC had investigated the petition and sent its report to the SGF with a reference No EFCC/EC/SGF/03/56 dated March 5, 2015, personally signed by the then Chairman of the EFCC Ibrahim Lamorde who exonerated the CCT boss from the bribery saga.

The EFCC report received by the office of the SGF on March 6, 2015, was categorical that, "the facts as they are against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute for the offence."

Other EFCC documents show that, in 2016, a fresh investigation was conducted into the same N10 million bribery allegation and the same anti-graft agency, in its second report absolved Umar of any wrongdoing and described the bribery allegation against him as a mere suspicion.

The EFCC's second report with reference number, EFCC/P/HRU/688/V30/99 dated April 20, 2016, submitted to the SGF signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, read in part: "Kindly recall our correspondence of March 5 2015 with Reference EFCC/EC/SGF/03/56 with above subject caption. We will like to reiterate the Commission's position in regard to this matter as earlier communicated to you and state that the allegation levelled against Justice Umar were merely suspicions and consequently insufficient to prosecute the offence."

On February 2, 2018, the EFCC had brought a two-count charge against the CCT chairman bordering on alleged receipt of N10 million bribe from Taiwo.

Umar was accused of receiving N1.8 million through his Personal Assistant, Gambo Abdullahi for a favour to be afterward shown to the petitioner who was standing trial for a criminal offence before the tribunal.

Meanwhile, March 15, 2018, has been fixed for the arraignment of the CCT boss at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Efforts to get the response of the EFCC yesterday were not fruitful as calls put across to its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, were unanswered. A text message sent to his was also not responded to at press time.

In in a telephone interview with Daily Trust yesterday, Keyamo said he was never queried by the AGF but he was only written "a private letter" which he has since responded to.

Probed on the content of his response to the AGF, Keyamo said, "I have no comment on it, it was a private letter to me and I have replied it privately."

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