Nigeria: Magu's Lawyer Accuses Panel of Illegalities, Rights Violation

13 August 2020

The lawyer of the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, Wahab Shittu has written the Justice Ayo Salami - led Judicial Commission of Inquiry, accusing the panel of illegalities and violations of Magu's rights.

Shittu, in a letter dated August 11, 2020, and addressed to the chairman of the panel stated summarily that " we have concerns regarding the legality of the honourable tribunal in the areas highlighted above such as:

" The tribunal has consistently sat in private ( camera ) and not in public of the applicable law ; " The tribunal has held proceedings and invited and entertained witnesses to the exclusion of our client and his counsel in violation of the applicable law on rules of fair hearing .

The tribunal sat and conducted proceedings in the absence of our client in violation of the applicable law and rules of fair hearing .

" The detention of Mr . Magu and subsequent denial of Mr. Magu 's detention by both your panel and the police .

"The suspension of twelve officials (investigators and prosecutors) of the EFCC without query , interrogation , or any other expected standard treatment for such an action .

" The appearance of several conflicting reportage in the media without any official statement from your committee ; " Failure to allow Mr. Magu ' s counsel to cross -examine our client' s accusers and witnesses .

" Failure of the committee to reveal its mandate, terms of reference and timeline until August 8 , 2020 ( 35 days after the panel was expected to have commenced public sitting by virtue of the instrument of mandate. It is also unclear whether proceedings of the panel before the date of the issuance of the instrument of mandate will be deemed to be part of the forty - five days timeline prescribed in the instrument of mandate or proceedings will be deemed to commence when our client was served the instrument of mandate on 8th August 2020 ."

The lawyer, in the letter, also noted that the panel could only " lawfully proceed on the basis of strict adherence to the letters of its instrument of mandate as well as the enabling legal regime from which the instrument of mandate derives its authority including the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is the ground norm ."

Indicating readiness to cooperate with the panel, Shittu added that despite the above factual and legal observations, should the panel decide to proceed with the inquiry "our client will be ready to present his defence and meritorious case. "

Parts of the letter also alleged that the panel 's proceedings had been conducted in violation of not only the presidential instrument appointing it but also the Tribunal of Inquiry Act , 2004 , which empowers the President to set up the JCI .

It described as " curious and worrisome " that the panel led by Salami , which started as an administrative panel of inquiry taking oral and documentary evidence in the past one month suddenly metamorphosed into a Judicial Commission of Inquiry .

" How this comes within the contemplation of a Commission of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004 is very questionable."

The lawyer also expressed concern that despite his client being the principal subject matter of the proceedings , he was not formally invited to appear before the panel and that the instrument appointing the JCI which was signed on July 3 , 2020 by the President Muhammadu Buhari, was not served on him until 35 days after .

Shittu also agreed that the panel had the power to, in a given situation , exclude members of the public from its proceedings , but cited section 2 ( d ) of the Act which he argued does not permit the panel to bar the public from " the entirety of the proceedings but limited to few special situations in the context of the public sittings " .

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