By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
Counsel in charge of Defence Team of the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Barrister Wahab Shittu, has said that, nobody has the right to condemn his client before he is given the opportunity to defend himself in the alleged corruption allegations levelled against him.
Barrister Shittu in a statement signed and made available to journalists said his client Ibrahim Magu should be given the chance to prove his innocence.
Barr. Shittu has denied alleged indictment of his client by Justice Ayo Salami’s led Administrative Panel of Inquiry investigating alleged misappropriation of funds belonging to the anti-graft agency , saying stories credited to Salami recommending the sack and prosecution of Magu in some media were planted by characters he said were bent on tarnishing image and reputation of his client .
According to him, the suspended boss of EFCC would not have been indicted while the commission of Inquiry was still sitting , and without giving his client the chance to defend himself of allegations levelled against him by Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice , Abubakar Malami , whom he said had yet to appear before the panel to prove the substance of his accusations against Magu.
He revealed that instruments embodying terms of reference only got to Magu 35 days after commencement of sittings by the panel , which he said was not fair to his client.
He mentioned that Magu was intercepted on his way for an official engagement , made to appear before the panel and detained thereafter for Ten days saying such action was not part of the panel’s terms of reference and against fundamental rights of his client.
” Our client was excluded from the initial stages of the proceedings with several witnesses testifying in his absence.
“Counsel to our client was not allowed to cross-examine many of the witnesses who had testified until recently.
” 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.
“Our client was accosted on the street and compulsorily requested to appear before the panel without opportunity to access documents to adequately prepare his defence.
“Due to his suspension from office, our client is unable to have access to official documents and other information necessary for his defence.
“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.
“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 a 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 , engaged in libelous publication where it listed individuals, and companies that are being investigated for corruption by the EFCC allegedly paid bribes to my client.
“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 get on the merits. ” The statement said.