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.