By Kingsley Nwezeh
A member of the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu’s legal team yesterday queried the secrecy surrounding the proceedings of the seven-man presidential panel probing allegations of malfeasance against him.
Magu’s counsel, Mr. Oluwatosin Ojaomo, also raised posers over why the media is barred from covering the panel, headed by Justice Ayo Salami, since its inception in spite of the constitutional provisions that allows the media unfettered coverage of the panel’s proceedings in Section 36 of the constitution.
He also wondered why Magu has not been served with the allegations against him by the panel and why the panel has allowed witnesses testimonies behind him.
The panel is yet to allow Magu to present his defence to the panel, forcing his lead counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, to issue a statement that he would make his defence known to the world in addition to daily rebuttals of misrepresentations in the public space.
In an interview with THISDAY, Ojaomo said the panel’s proceedings should be open to media coverage.
He said the panel had neither allowed Magu access the allegations against him nor allowed him to present his defence.
“I am being factual. The man (Magu) has not been given a copy of the petition against him.
This is a quasi-judicial panel. The panel is bound by Section 36 (1) of the constitution.
“The panel is bound to observe the principles of natural justice. These are very important issues to be considered. The first thing to be done is to confront him with the allegations,” he said.
Recalling Magu’s initial invitation by the panel, he said: “Don’t forget that the first thing he was told is to come and be a witness in an ongoing investigation. “After his invitation to be at the panel, he is now suspended even when he has not been confronted with the allegations.
“There is a sinister move and Nigerians should be watchful. The people they are bringing to the panel are enemies of Ibrahim Magu.”
He queried the mode of the panel’s proceedings, saying: “How will there be witnesses testifying in an allegation against you and you are not allowed to be there? Where are the pillars of justice here?”
Ojaomo challenged the media to stand for its right and insist on covering the panel’s proceedings.
“How do you bar the media from covering the panel? It is your constitutional right under Section 36 of the constitution.
“The media needs to assert itself even under the Freedom of Information Act,” he added.
Magu had weekend denied allegations that he misappropriated N329 billion recovered from the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) and another N3 billion recovered from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Magu had alleged that he was a victim of propaganda unleashed by some unnamed publications and interests in spite of his commitment to the anti-graft war as head of EFCC.
He had said he would render daily rebuttals of allegations against him and make his defence known to the public.