Suspended Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has kicked against secret trial and his exclusion from many sessions where many adversarial witnesses were invited by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to testify against him by the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel.
Magu in a 16-page petition, dated August 10, 2020 and addressed to Justice Ayo Salami, also kicked against the panel’s exclusion of his lawyers from many proceedings of the commission, describing the action as a deliberate attempt to deny him fair hearing.
In the document, which Vanguard obtained yesterday, Magu lamented that the conduct of the commission was contrary to the spirit and letter of Section 2 (D) of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act which the President relied on in setting it up.
The letter, which was signed by his lawyer, Wahab Shittu, noted that contrary to the act establishing the judiciary panel, it had since inception on July 3, 2020, been consistently conducting its proceedings in private, adding that most of the witnesses were examined without the presence of Magu who is actually the subject matter of the inquiry.
He noted that when recently Magu was allowed a limited access to the proceedings with his counsel, he was not allowed to cross examine the witnesses the panel had called to testify against him.
The lawyer said: “Specifically, our client and his counsel were excluded from the proceedings of 11th, 12th, and 13th of July 2020 among others in spite of their presence at the venue of the sitting.
‘’In all the days of exclusion from the proceedings of the judicial commission of inquiry, witnesses were called, testified and interrogated and documents tendered in the absence of his client and counsel.
“It should be emphasised that the nature of the allegations against our client is criminal. Consequently, his right under the constitution to fair hearing ought not to have been crassly violated in the circumstances so far demonstrated by the commission.
“This runs contrary to the instrument of appointment stipulating that the judicial commission of inquiry is designated as instrument constituting a judicial commission of inquiry for the investigation of Ibrahim Magu, the acting Chairman of the EFCC, for alleged abuse of office and mismanagement of federal government recovered assets from May 2015 to May 2020.
“Clearly from the above, our client is the subject matter of inquiry and to exclude the presence of our client and his counsel in any of the proceedings is a gross violation of the expressed letters of the instrument of the appointment dated July 3, 2020, as well as the powers conferred by the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004.’’
Magu also complained about the non-administration of oath by the commission on the witnesses it had been taking evidence from since the commencement of the trial, saying that the commission had also violated a mandatory requirement of the law covering such trials in Nigeria.
He also faulted the commission for denying him the copy of the allegations for which he was being tried and the terms of reference of the commission barely a few days to the conclusion of its 45-day sitting. ‘’It was based on repeated demand that a copy of the ToR was served on our client on August 8, exactly 35 days after the sitting of the commission.
“Thus, our client has been denied the opportunity of timeously raising objections to and challenging the composition of the commission membership, assuming he would have had any. ‘’Again, our client’s constitutional right of being afforded adequate opportunity of preparing for his defence to those allegations has also been violated.
“We observe that in recent times, when our counsel was allowed to appear in the proceedings, counsel was not given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, a prerogative only given to our client who is not a trained lawyer, in spite of the presence of his counsel.
‘’This action negates the right of our client to be represented by a counsel endowed with full participatory powers in the proceedings,’’ he said. Magu’s lawyer also kicked against the entertainment of cases currently pending in the court by inviting and taking evidence from persons standing trial in criminal cases being heard by superior courts in the country.