Nigeria: Sagay Criticises Justice Salami Panel - Magu

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, on Monday, criticised the structure of the Justice Salami-led panel probing the allegations of corruption levelled against the suspended acting EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu.

Mr Sagay also frowned at the panel's approach of taking evidence from Mr Magu's accusers behind him, as well as "not giving him the petitions against him in advance of his defence," the Nation newspaper reports.

According to the report, the lawyer said he believed Justice Salami happens to be the only member of the committee investigating Mr Magu without an interest.

"I criticised the Salami panel for taking evidence from the accusers behind Magu's back and for not giving him the petitions against him in advance of his defence.

"Also, from the reports we read, the panel is packed with representatives of the DSS (Department of State Services), the Ministry of Justice and others from security agencies. These are also his accusers.

"Justice Salami appears to be the only neutral person on the panel.

"The Supreme Court of the golden age era once condemned this in strong terms in Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee ([1985] 2 NWLR (Pt. 7) p. 300) as 'come here quickly for your assured condemnation'.

"But I believe that the Hon. Justice Salami, who has a huge and impeccable reputation as a man of integrity, will not permit any injustice to occur in spite of the above composition of the panel."

However, a letter attributed to the president, Muhammadu Buhari, had circulated revealing a seven-member panel investigating the embattled EFCC boss.

The members include a former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami (North-central); Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Michael Ogbezi (South-south); a representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Muhammad Babadoko (North-central); and a representative of the Department of State Services (DSS), Hassan Abdullahi (North-central).

Others are; Muhammad Shamsudeen from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (North-west), Douglas Egweme from the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (South-east), and Kazeem Atitebits(South-west) who serves as the Secretary.

Mr Magu is currently being investigated before Justice Salami's panel over allegations of corruption and insubordination. He was arrested on July 6 in front of the EFCC Wuse II office and immediately driven to the Villa where his probe has since continued.

The allegations were levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

According to the report, Mr Sagay gave the remarks while reacting to a media publication where he was quoted to have said Mr Magu would not be prosecuted.

He said, "The headline of the report is falsely and deliberately designed to give that impression. But on page 28 of the paper, it is clearly shown that the maker of that statement is an official of the Presidency who wants to remain anonymous.

"It is clear that the paper dishonestly implied that I made that statement in order to boost sales at my expense. This is clearly unethical.

"What I said was that Magu could not be prosecuted before the Salami Report is out and that Malami's allegations are just what they are, allegations in a petition.

"I added that the allegations must be investigated in order to determine their veracity and the issue of whether they could be used as a basis for building up evidence.

"No one is prosecuted on unverified allegations as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wanted, otherwise it would be a lost cause from the very beginning.

"I made it clear that Malami's petition was just the beginning of a process that could lead to prosecution if solid evidence is established upon investigation.

"I did not say Magu may not be prosecuted. I am not privy to the politics of the Presidency. That was from the Daily Independent's unnamed source in the Presidency."

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