The suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, has asked the Judicial Commission of Inquiry probing his tenure to clarify the 45-day timeline given to it by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the instrument establishing the judicial commission was dated July 3, but he was served on August 8.
He said it was 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 45 days’ timeline.
He asked the commission to clarify whether its proceedings will be deemed to commence when he was served the instrument of mandate on August 8.
He raised eight other issues including the fact that tribunal has consistently sat in private (camera) and not in public.
Other complaints include alleged failure of the commission to reveal its mandate and terms of interest; inviting witnesses without Magu’s knowledge; most witnesses not placed on oath; lack of Magu’s counsel right to cross-examine his client’s accusers; no access to documents forming the basis of witnesses’ testimonies before the panel; his detention; and suspension of 12 top EFCC of officials without query.
But, he said if the commission’s timeline is retroactive, he is ready to defend himself.
Magu’s position was contained an August 11 letter to the Chairman of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, by his counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu.
He said he was shocked that the commission had been entertaining matters already pending before superior courts.
He raised the following observations:
“In summary, 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 has 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 8th August 2020(35 days after the panel was expected to have commenced public sitting by virtue of the instrument of mandate.
Witnesses appearing without being on oath.
Magu was more specific on the actual sitting timeline of the commission.
The letter reads in part: “Please, be further advised that by the instrument of appointment signed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 3rd of July, 2020 and served on our client on 8th August 2020, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry is to conclude all proceedings of the inquiry within 45 days unless given express extension in writing by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Paragraph 5 of the instrument of instruction provides as follows
“And I hereby direct the judicial commission to submit its interim reports to me from time to time, but the judicial commission shall in any case submit its final report not later than forty five days from the date of its first public sitting or within such extended period as may be authorized by me in writing
“In view of the above, we humbly require clarification on the judicial commission of inquiry’s timeline for sittings. This is in the context of the fact that our client was not formally invited to the proceedings of the judicial commission of inquiry until the 6th of July, 2020, even if the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was supposed to have been constituted since the 3rd of July, 2020.
“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 45 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.
“We observe that our client is 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 our client the principal suspect in the proceedings.
“In the circumstances our client is entitled to be served with the 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 proceedings or timeously upon his appearance before this judicial commission of inquiry on the 6th of July 2020.
“In spite of the repeated request by our client and his counsel, the instrument embodying the terms of reference was not served on our client until 8th of August 2020 (35 days) after the sitting of the judicial commission of inquiry.
The embattled Acting Chairman of EFCC also objected to the conduct of the commission’s sitting in private.
The letter added: “We observe that contrary to the above, the proceedings of this Judicial Commission of Inquiry constituted since 3rd July, 2020 by virtue of the instrument of appointment has consistently been conducted in private and most of the witnesses examined without the presence of our client who is the subject matter of inquiry until recently when our client was allowed limited access to the proceedings with his counsel who was not allowed to cross-examine the witnesses called to testify against our client.
“Specifically our client and his counsel were excluded from the proceedings of 11th, 12th ,13th of July 2020 amongst others in spite of presence at the venue of the sittings.
“In all the days of exclusion from the proceedings of the judicial commission of inquiry, witnesses were called, testified, interrogated and documents tendered and admitted in the proceedings in the absence of our client and his counsel. It should be emphasized that the nature of allegations against our client is that 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 Mr. Magu Ibrahim, the Ag. Chairman of the EFCC for alleged abuse of office and mismanagement `of Federal Government recovered assets and finances 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 express letters of the instrument of appointment dated 3rd July, 2020 as well as powers conferred by the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004.”
“We observe that by the instrument of appointment, this judicial commission of inquiry in the nature of a tribunal (an inferior court).
“Consequently, such an inferior Court lacks the powers to entertain matters pending before superior courts of records including the High Court, Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court respectively. It is therefore a major surprise that cases pending before the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal such as FRN V DAUDA LAWAL and other cases in that category are subject to enquiry before these proceedings. We humbly draw attention to this development
“We observe that the terms of reference of this Judicial Commission of Inquiry are expressly specified in the instrument of appointment dated 3rd July 2020 signed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Matters outside the terms of reference cannot be entertained and are not entertainable without infringing the express letters of the instrument of appointment and the clear provisions of the TRIBUNAL OF INQUIRY ACT 2004.”
He also revisited his detention and asked the commission to take judicial notice of the infraction of his right. – The Nation.