Nobody is entitled to condemn Mr Ibrahim Magu before he is afforded the opportunity to defend himself in the corruption allegations levelled against him.
Mr Wahab Shittu, who is the lawyer to the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said this in a statement sent to Channels Television on Sunday.
He insisted that his client was innocent of the corruption allegations against him, although he has yet to be given the chance to prove his innocence.
The legal practitioner explained that the statement was in reaction to an online publication that the panel led by Justice Ayo Salami investigating Magu had recommended his sack and prosecution to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He noted that following an earlier report of similar nature, the presidential panel advised them to ignore the story.
According to Shittu, the suspended EFCC boss is yet to formally present his defence and proceedings are ongoing, and witnesses are still lined up for next week beginning from Monday.
He decried that despite repeated demands, his client has not been served with copies of allegations against him while the instrument embodying the Terms of Reference was not served on him until 35 days after proceedings had commenced.
The lawyer added that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, whose memo triggered the proceedings, has yet to be summoned to testify to support the allegations against Magu.
Among other issues raised, Shittu said his client was unable to gain access to official documents and other information necessary for his defence due to his suspension from office.
While the presidential panel was investigating the allegations of corruption against Magu, President Buhari affirmed his suspension from office on July 10.
A statement from the government explained that the presidential directive was to allow for an unhindered inquiry by the panel under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act and other relevant laws.
Read the full statement by Magu’s lawyer below:
23rd August 2020.
SALAMI PANEL CAN’T SUBMIT INTERIM REPORT WITHOUT HEARING FROM MAGU- WAHAB SHITTU
Gentlemen of the Press,
Based on press inquiries on my clients’ response to the story on The Cable news online medium captioned “Exclusive, Salami panel asks Buhari to fire, prosecute Magu for corruption”, we wish to state as follows:
- We are unaware of the source of the story and we are actually shocked that such a false story is being orchestrated in the public space, contrary to the stage of ongoing proceedings before the panel. We wish to state with high sense of responsibility that our client is yet to formally present his defence. Proceedings are ongoing and witnesses are still lined up for next week beginning from Monday. Please note that the earlier report of similar import published by The Pilot was brought to the attention of the panel and we were advised by the chairman of the panel to ignore the story. Our attitude is also to ignore this latest story as falsehood not reflecting the realities on ground.
- We all know that in spite of repeated demands, our client has not been served with copies of allegations against him.
- The instrument embodying the Terms of Reference was not served on my client until August 8, 2020 (35 days after proceedings have commenced).
- That the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), whose memo triggered the proceedings, is yet to be summoned to testify to support the allegations against our client. He who “asserts must prove”.
- That our client was excluded from the initial stages of the proceedings with several witnesses testifying in his absence.
- That counsel to our client was not allowed to cross-examine many of the witnesses who had testified until recently.
- That our client is yet to be granted access to petitions/presentations, case files and exhibits admitted in the proceedings. Please note that we have written to the panel to that effect.
- That our client was accosted on the street and compulsorily requested to appear “immediately” before the panel without opportunity to access documents to adequately prepare his defence.
- That our client was subsequently detained for ten days after appearing before the panel in unpleasant circumstances. This detention is not covered by the Terms of Reference arising from the instrument constituting the judicial commission of inquiry.
- That our client, owing to his suspension from office, is unable to have access to official documents and other information necessary for his defence.
- That cases pending before superior courts of records such as Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and The Supreme Court are being reviewed in the proceedings. We believe that this development is subjudice and unhealthy for our jurisprudence.
- That witnesses appearing before the panel were not sworn on oath before giving evidence as stipulated under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, 2004 on whose authority the instrument setting up the Judicial Commission of Inquiry is derived.
- It is curious and worrisome that an administrative panel of inquiry headed by His Lordship, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, 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 contemplation of a commission of the Tribunal of Inquiry Act, 2004 is very questionable.
- We also raise serious objection to piecemeal release of the so-called interim report in the social media, particularly the WHISTLER online medium which claimed to have seen the interim report.
- It is instructive to state that the online medium went ahead to recklessly engaged in libelous publication where it listed individuals, and companies that being investigated for corruption by the EFCC allegedly paid bribes to my client.
- We are shocked that such a libelous publication against my client without hearing from him.
- This panel must address this weighty issue before the commencement of today’s proceedings.
- The Salami panel also revealed the identities of eight suspects that allegedly paid the bribes to Magu through pastor Omale and Shanono. Shanono allegedly received NGN570,698,500 from China Zhonghao Nigeria limited through the Zenith Bank account 1018895662 of his company, Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono Investment Ltd. “The transfers were in about 43 tranches between 5th December 2014 and 23rd June, 2015. The china Zhonghao Coy is being investigated by the EFCC for abandoning a road contract awarded to the company by the Zamfara State Government between 2012 and 2019”, the panel noted. An aide to a formal managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nathniel Uyo, was alleged to have paid the sum of N10 million into an Ecobank Account Number 3912014141 of the Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry on 09/06/2018. The report said the former NDDC MD “was then being investigated by the EFCC over an alleged attempt to bribe members of the Akwa-Ibom State APC Appeal Committee in Abuja”. Pastor Omale, according to the Salami panel, also received N10 million from a Bureau De Change operator, 7*7 BDC Limited, through his Church’s Ecobank account. The report said that the BDC was being investigated by the EFCC for, “receiving over N1.6 billion (N1,600,000,000), part of the N27 billion (N27,000,000,000) Insurance Premiums looted during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan”. A former Chairman of the Niger State Pilgrims Agency, Liman Kantigi, who was being investigated by the EFCC for allegedly misappropriating funds during his tenure at the agency, also allegedly paid N200 million bribe to Magu through Shanono. Kantigi, through his company, Sadiq Air Travels, allegedly transferred N200 million into the Access Bank Account of Shanono’s company, the report said. Weeks before paying the alleged bribe, the EFCC was said to have traced N4 billion to two Guaranty Trust Bank accounts linked to Kantigi. A government contractor, A.G Ferrero & Co. had also allegedly paid N213 million to another company belonging to Shanono, Newttech Aluminium and Roofing Service Ltd. “A.G Ferrero & Co. was a contractor to Jigawa State Government during the tenure fo Sule Lamido between 2007 and 2013. Lamido was investigated by the EFCC during the period”. The report said. The Salami panel said Pastor Omale, through his Church, also received N1.3 million from the company being investigated for alleged link to EFCC’s N1.5 billion money laundering case against a former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye. According to the panel, “Apartment Le Paradisi transferred One million three hundred and twenty thousand naira (N1,320,000.00) into Divine Hand of God Prophetic Ministry Eco Bank Account Number 3912014143, on 22/04/2014. The company had testified before the EFCC, in respect of a case involving the former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye who was then being investigated for laundering about One billion five hundred million naira (N1,500,000,000.00). Former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, was alleged to have paid N30,744,000 to Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono Investment Limited over his investigation for alleged looting of N6.3 billion while serving as governor of the state. Senator Jonah David Jang transferred the sum of thirty million seven hundred and forty-four thousand naira (N30,744,000.00) into the UBA account Number 1018895662 of Ahmed Ibrahim Shanono Investment Ltd, on 18th July 2016. Senator Jang, a former Governor of Plateau State is being investigated by the EFCC for alleged looting of Six Billion three hundred million naira (N6.3bn) belonging to Plateau State Government”, said the report”.
- The entirety of the publication above is first-class falsehood from the pit of hell. None of the issues arose from the proceedings of the judicial commission of inquiry. I recall Pastor Omale appearing before the panel to confirm openly that none of the transfers into the church’s accounts emanated from Magu and that Magu never donated to his personal or church account. It is also instructive to note that no character by the name Shanono ever appeared before the judicial commission of inquiry. The purveyors of this fake news may assume they are destroying the sterling image of Magu, but I have news for them. Majority of Nigerians however cannot be fooled. I can only refer to the testimony of former SGF Babachir Lawal on Magu thus
“But now in the case of Magu, the narrative is that corruption is fighting back. These are the impressions and the consequences of such conducts. Initially, I had the feeling that the system would come after Magu, especially the press and social media. If you are very discerning, you will know they are with him. The preponderance of opinions is in support of Magu’s position. The views being laid out are as if it is a witch-hunt. There are better ways to end Magu’s reign because no matter what anybody tells you, Magu tried. I used to joke that if you are a thief and you are caught by Magu, nobody can release you unless you cut off his hands. – Culled from The Punch Newspapers.
- THISDAY front-page lead story of Sunday 23rd August 2020 in a banner headline reported “Magu May Face More Investigations, Criminal Prosecution”
I am at a loss of how the paper arrived at this conclusion when it is clear to all that the only thing going for Magu is his innocence. We will not join further issues on the publication with the paper at this stage.
- We wish to confirm that the proceedings are still ongoing, and my client is yet to present his defence. We are therefore shocked at the suggestion that an interim report has been submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari. We all know that this is a democracy anchored on respect for the rule of law. Central to the rule of law is the element of fair hearing.
Section 36(1) of 1999 Constitution (as amended) is explicit on this. It provides;
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.”
- We urge those bent on prejudicing the proceedings of the panel by planting false stories in the public space to think of the interest of our country and not prejudge our client whose commitment all along is service to the country.
- The only thing keeping our client going in spite of the desire of mischief-makers to pitch him unfairly against the authorities is his conviction of his innocence.
Please no one is entitled to condemn our innocent client before he is heard or before he is afforded the opportunity of defending himself on the merits.
Wahab Shittu (Esq)
W.K. Shittu & Co.