Wahab Shittu, counsel to Ibrahim Magu, suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has accused the presidential panel investigating his client of working against the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The panel, headed by Ayo Salami, former president of the court of appeal, was set up to probe the allegations of corruption and abuse of office which led to the suspension of Magu.
In a letter dated August 11, 2020 and addressed to the panel, Shittu said despite being the subject of the probe, the panel has been conducting its proceedings in secret, contrary to the directive of the president.
“It is curious and worrisome that an administrative panel of inquiry headed by your Lordship having sat and taken evidence (both oral and documentary) in the past one month has suddenly metamorphosed into a judicial commission of inquiry. How this comes within a contemplation of a Commission of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004 is very questionable,” he wrote.
“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 emphasised that the nature of 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.”
Shittu said Magu has not been able to access documents forming the basis of witnesses’ testimonies before the panel, and that while his counsel is unable to cross-examine the witnesses, “some of the witnesses were unable to conclude their testimonies before the panel.”
He said oaths were not administered on all the witnesses who have testified before the panel contrary to the provisions of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act 2004.
He also said the panel is delving into matters not within the terms of reference, adding: “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 inquiry before these proceedings.
“Notwithstanding the above factual and legal observations, should this distinguished body decide to proceed with the inquiry; our client will be ready to present his defence and meritorious case.”