Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Counsel to Mr. Ibrahim Magu, the suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Wahab Shittu, yesterday stated that the alleged refusal of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, to appear before the Justice Ayo Salami-led presidential panel probing the allegations of financial impropriety against Magu’s leadership amounted to disrespect to President Muhammadu Buhari, in whose authority the subpoena was issued to the AGF.He argued in a statement issued in Abuja that in a situation where Malami could not substantiate his allegations, it should be declared frivolous.
This is coming as Magu opened defence for the first time since the commencement of proceedings of the panel inaugurated on July 3, 2020.
He denied allegations of misappropriation of monies levelled against him, insisting that none of the recoveries made under his leadership was diverted for personal use.
Magu told the Salami panel that he never received any bribe from anyone in his life.
The Justice Salami-led presidential panel set up to probe the 22-point allegations of financial impropriety against Magu had subpoenaed the AGF, who, in a letter to the panel, declined appearance as a witness on the ground that he made charges against Magu based on the petitions he received against him in his office.
Shittu said Malami’s non-appearance was strange and bizarre.
According to him, “It was a strange and bizarre twist of events as the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Malami refused to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by the retired President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, despite a subpoena issued to him by the chairman of the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by President Buhari to investigate the allegations he leveled against the acting Chairman EFCC, Magu.
“Instead of appearing before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, Malami wrote a letter in disobedience to the subpoena issued for him to appear on the authority of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stating that he would not appear as a witness. He hinged his refusal on the fact that he only made charges against Magu based on the petitions he received against him in his office.”
Shittu maintained that “the above excuse is untenable and is a clear contempt of judicial authority, and shows total disregard for the authority of President Buhari on whose authority the subpoena was issued requesting his appearance before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.”
He said Magu had consistently requested the opportunity to confront his accuser before the panel, including an opportunity to be given the allegations leveled against him by the Attorney General of the Federation.
“Malami failed to appear before the Commission of Inquiry to substantiate the allegations he leveled against Magu in the memo he wrote to President Buhari, which was the basis upon which the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was set up by the president,” he said.
Shittu recalled that Malami had taken to the media boasting to the world that he would appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry if summoned to do so.
“Now that the opportunity has been presented, he is shying away from that call because his allegations cannot be substantiated with facts or any shred of credible evidence.
“The position of the law is clear, whenever a petitioner refuses to substantiate his petition before the appropriate authority, such a petition is declared to be frivolous,” he held.
Shittu said the commission called on Magu to present his defence which he did by presenting volumes of written responses to all the allegations against him backed by numerous exhibits and documents showing his achievements as the acting chairman of the EFCC, and official documents showing that no recovered assets was missing or diverted for personal use for his benefit or those of his close associates.