The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Walks Magu’s Lawyers Out Of Panel’s Sitting
The presidential panel probing the tenure of the former Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, yesterday walked out two lawyers from its sitting over perceived procedural errors.
Chairman of the panel, Justice Ayo Salami, who gave the order, directed security men to escort the two lawyers out of the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The two lawyers had attended the sitting, seeking to represent the embattled former boss of the anticorruption agency. The panel has been digging into the allegations of financial malfeasance levelled against Magu following a petition by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
A source at the panel’s sitting yesterday said trouble started when Prof. Zainab Duke and Mr. Aliyu Lemu, both legal practitioners, were introduced by Mr. Wahab Shittu, as colleagues representing Magu before the panel. It was gathered that as soon as Shittu introduced the two lawyers to the panel, Salami promptly ordered security men to walk them out, insisting that only Shittu would be allowed to stand for Magu before the panel.
Magu was arrested by security men to face charges of corruption and insubordination to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation in July after having allegedly ignored several summons the panel. He was subsequently detained by the Police for several days before he was later released on bail.
Having been relieved of his position as acting chairman of EFCC, he has since been facing the probe panel and helping them in their investigations. In the past two months, Shittu, who has been representing Magu, had accused the panel of denying his client fair hearing and canvassed the need to cross-examine witnesses who testified against him. Apparently frustrated at the trend of proceedings at the panel, Shittu reportedly took Prof. Zainab Duke-Abiola (MNI) and Mr. Aliyu Lemu to the panel yesterday to assist him push the case.
The walkout order set off a mild drama, but attempts by Shittu and Abiola to explain the sanctity of legal representation for Magu were resisted by Salami and other members of the panel who refused to listen to their explanations.
Abiola, a human rights activist, anti-corruption crusader, member of the British Bar and the Akasoba of Kalabari Kingdom. She is also the widow of the late Chief MKO Abiola. In a reaction to the incident, Duke-Abiola expressed disappointment with the conduct of the panel.
“What happened today has highlighted the nature and manner the panel of inquiry has been conducting its sittings secretly against the presidential directive and the instrument setting it up, that it should hold a public hearing. It is unacceptable and patently illegal,” she said.
She also called for an end to what she referred to as travesty of justice and charade being conducted by the panel, saying that its action may ridicule Nigeria in the international anti-corruption community.