SUSPENDED acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, has told the Ayo Salami-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry that his rights to a fair hearing are being violated. This is contained in a letter written by Magu’s lawyer, Mr Wahab Shittu, dated August 11, and addressed to the chairman of the commission investigating his (Magu’s) alleged abuse of office and mismanagement of the Federal Government’s recovered assets and finances.
According to Shittu, the suspended EFCC acting chairman was the principal subject of the judicial commission of inquiry not only in relation to his person but also connected to the office he occupied at the time of the inquiry and thereby, making him the principal suspect in the proceedings.
“In the circumstances, our client is entitled to be served copies of the allegations against him or at best a copy of the terms of reference of the judicial commission of inquiry immediately upon the commencement of this procedure or timeously upon his appearance before this judicial commission of inquiry on July 6,” Shittu stated.
He added that in spite of the repeated request by Magu and his counsel, the terms of reference was not served on him until August 8, which was 35 days after the commencement of the judicial commission of inquiry’s sitting.
“Thus, our client (Magu) has been denied the opportunity of timeously raising objection to and challenging the composition of the commission membership, assuming he would have had any. “Our client’s constitutional right of being afforded the adequate opportunity of preparing for his defence to those allegations has been violated.”
Shittu alleged that the commission is committing certain illegalities, contrary to the law under which it was constituted by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 3. He noted that by the virtue of the instrument establishing the judicial commission of inquiry which was served on Magu and signed by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was constituted pursuant to the Tribunal of Inquiry Act, 2004 and wondered how an administrative panel suddenly metamorphosed into a judicial commission of inquiry.
This, Magu’s lawyer submitted, was 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 Mr Ibrahim Magu, the acting chairman of the EFCC for alleged abuse of office and mismanagement of the Federal Government’s assets and finances from May 2015 till May 2020.
He said, “Clearly from the above, our client is the subject matter of inquiry and to exclude the presence of our client and is counsel in any of the proceedings is a gross violation of the express letters of the instrument of appointment dated July 3 as well as powers conferred by the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004.”
He added that critical to proceedings of the Salami-led commission being a judicial commission of inquiry as provided by Section 5(b) of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004 is the administration of oath on witnesses before evidence of such witnesses are taken.
According to him, “We observe that oaths were not administered on all the witnesses who have given evidence before this judicial commission of inquiry.” In summary, Shittu raised concerns regarding the legality of the Salami-led Commission of Inquiry in the areas highlighted in the letter.