Suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu has cried out that the Commission of Inquiry into his tenure has adopted illegal and unconstitutional procedure in carrying out its assignment.
A letter of protest to the Commission written on Tuesday and signed by Magu’s lawyer, Wahab Shittu, chronicled all the illegal procedures and actions of the Commission.
In the letter, addressed to the Chairman of the Commission, the embattled Magu however expressed his readiness to appear before the Commission despite his grouse with its procedures.
Magu’s lawyer cited some of the illegalities as: “Our client has been denied the opportunity of timeously raising objection to and challenging the composition of the commission membership, assuming he would have had any. Our client’s constitutional right of being afforded adequate opportunity of preparing for his defence to those allegations has been violated.
“Section 18 of the TRIBUNAL OF INQUIRY ACT PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS
“ANY PERSON WHOSE CONDUCT OR AFFAIRS ARE THE SUBJECT OF INQUIRY UNDER THIS ACT OR WHO IS IN ANY WAY IMPLICATED OR CONCERNED IN THE MATTER UNDER INQUIRY SHALL BE ENTITLED TO BE REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL AT THE WHOLE OF THE INQUIRY AND SUBJECT TO PARAGRAPH (1) OF SECTION 2(1) OF THIS ACT, ANY OTHER PERSON MAY WITH THE LEAVE OF THE MEMBERS BE REPRESENTED IN LIKE MANNERS”
“We observed that in recent time when our counsel was allowed to appear in the proceedings, counsel was not given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, a prerogative only given to our client who is not a trained lawyer in spite of the presence of counsel. This obviously negates the right of our client to be represented by counsel endowed with full participatory powers in the proceedings.
“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.
“We note that the term of reference does not authorize the detention of our client who was taken into custody for nine days after his appearance before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on 6th July 2020. We observe that the chairman had clarified that the detention was not at the instance of the judicial commission of inquiry. We urge this distinguished commission to note this infraction of our client’s fundamental right to liberty and make appropriate recommendations deprecating this development to the appointing authority.
“Our duty is to draw attention to the above for consideration and guidance of this distinguished gathering. Our client observes that witnesses appearing before the panel interfaced ahead of the proceedings and in many instances, our client is unable to have access to documents forming the basis of witnesses’ testimonies before the panel. In our client’s view the atmosphere around the proceedings is clearly disturbing to our client especially since his counsel is unable to cross-examine the witnesses and some of the witnesses were unable to conclude their testimonies before the panel.
“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.
F) 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. 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 forty-five 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 appreciate the tremendous work done by my lord and the committee members in the last few weeks and consider the sacrifices as service to country. However this is a moment of decision and not to decide is to decide. Our democracy is founded on the rule of law. This forum can only lawfully proceed on the basis of strict adherence to the letters of its instrument of mandate as well as the enabling legal regime from which the instrument of mandate derives its authority including the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is the grund norm.
“This is not just about our client but about everyone else including lawful process and the rule of law.
“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.
“According to the immortal words of Martin Luther-King JR: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.”