Nigeria: Verifying Recovered Assets in Magu's Absence 'Futile' - Lawyer

19 October 2020

Wahab Shittu, the counsel to the suspended acting chairman of the anti-graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has again faulted the Justice Ayo Salami-led judicial panel of inquiry's manner of proceedings.

In a statement on Sunday, the lawyer said it would be futile for the panel to conduct verification of recovered assets in the absence of Mr Magu and his lawyers and thereafter proceed to write a report without clarification from him.

It said that before Mr. Magu closed his defence two weeks ago, the panel denied his client an opportunity to call a witness to strengthen his case for innocence before the committee panel.

Mr Shittu also accused Justice Salami of preventing his client from subpoenaing certain individuals for his defence.

He said, "It is on records that our client closed his defence two weeks ago without the opportunity to call any witness to strengthen his innocence as applications to call witnesses and subpoena certain individuals, including AGF Abubakar Malami (SAN) were blatantly refused by Salami.

"We wish to say with a high sense of responsibility that our client has nothing to hide, unlike the panel that refused to give him fair hearing and has been sitting for about six months without timeline and numerous illegalities."

Mr Magu is currently being investigated by a panel headed by Mr Salami, a former president of the Court of Appeal, over allegations of graft and insubordination levelled against him by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

Mr Malami, whose complaint led to the suspension of Mr Magu in July after five years as acting EFCC chairperson, had declined to appear before the panel to defend his allegations on activities of the EFCC from May 2015 to May 2020.

However, since the panel kicked off probing the embattled EFCC boss, the lawyer has in a series of letters and releases, accused the panel of violating his client's constitutional right to a fair hearing.

Mr Shittu had also called for a fair hearing and provision of copies of relevant exhibits against his client from the proceedings of the committee.

The lawyer's statement was in reaction to a media report stating that the Justice Salami panel had begun a verification process of assets recovered by Mr Magu.

Mr Shittu said, "Our view, arising from the media story, is that the fate of our client is being predetermined even before the panel submits its report to the President and this will be tragic.

"This is because it is elementary that the panel is a judicial commission of inquiry, established pursuant to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry Act 2004. That being so and by virtue of being an inferior tribunal, the panel "ought not to descend into the arena lest it faces the danger of being blindfolded by the dust raised by the combatants.

"It is an exercise in futility for the panel to conduct verification of recovered assets in the absence of Magu and his lawyers and thereafter proceed to write a report without clarification from him.

"We urge Mr. President on whose authority the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was established to note this development including the trauma and prejudice to which our client is being subjected by these endless prejudicial publications being attributed to the panel even before the report is submitted to the President."

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