By Yusuf Alli, Abuja
Suspended Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu cannot get justice before the commission of inquiry probing the activities of the anti-graft agency, a Nigerian-based anti-corruption group – Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) – and its three international partners said in a letter to President Muhammadu.
Citing the conduct of the panel, the group said it has become obvious that Magu cannot get fair hearing from the Justice Isa Ayo Salami-led panel.
HEDA alleged that the panel has been “packed with Ministry of Justice and security agency officials, who are among Magu’s accusers.”
It also claimed that the panel has spent more days than necessary without establishing any serious case against the EFCC boss.
The group said Buhari should disband the panel, if it cannot do the assignment given to it.
The letter was signed by HEDA’s Chairman Olanrewaju Suraju; Global witness Director Simon Taylor; Cornerhouse Director Nicholas Hildyard and Re:Common Director Luca Manes.
They expressed concern over the conduct of the judicial inquiry into allegations made by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, that Magu had abused his office as EFCC’s acting chair.
The groups said: “The former Acting Chairman, EFCC Ibrahim Magu is unlikely to get justice at the Presidential Panel set to probe him
”If the panel cannot establish proven case of corruption against Magu, the groups urged Buhari to disband the panel and save Nigeria from local and international embarrassment. It is the third time HEDA and its partners have raised the same concern in six months.”
The groups said they had “no problem with the investigations, but rather that the investigation has, from the start, been so deeply flawed and biased that impartial observers have long since given up hope of Mr. Magu receiving a fair hearing.”
Suraju said: “President Buhari should be aware that international anti-corruption campaigners now regard the Panel as nothing less than a Kangaroo Court designed to witch-hunt Magu and slow down the anti-corruption wheel.
“At almost every stage, Magu has been denied due process. He was not provided with the allegations against him until 35 days after the Panel had convened.
“His lawyers have repeatedly been excluded from many of the hearings. Most of the witnesses were examined without Magu being present. Witnesses have been allowed to testify without swearing to an oath of truth.
“The Attorney-General, Malami, has refused to comply with a subpoena ordering him to give testimony, on the dubious grounds that he was merely passing on complaints that had been made to him by others.
“We have no reason to doubt the integrity of the Panel’s chair, Justice Ayo Isa Salami before his appointment; but he is just one member of a panel.”
HEDA and partners expressed concern about reports alleging that Magu’s chief accuser, Attorney -General Malami, has set up an in-house committee to write the panel’s report.
It said: “If true, this would be an insult to justice. We implore you to act. When the panel was established on 3 July 2020, you gave it 45 days to report. That deadline has long since passed. The report was that another 60 days was granted after the expiration of the original 45 days. It is now more than 120 days.”
Wondering how much longer the travesty would continue, HEDA said: “The panel has disobeyed the clear instructions to report by a specific deadline and should now be disbanded. If the panel has not found credible evidence against Magu, then it should say so. If it is too incompetent to write a report within the mandated time, then it should be wound up, and the public protected from further unwarranted calls on the stipend that Panel members draw.”
According to HEDA, every day that passes with the matter unresolved gives succour to those who oppose the government’s anti-corruption crusade.
The statement reads: “We cannot overstate the damage that Attorney-General Malami’s vendetta against Magu has inflicted on the reputation of Nigeria and, indeed, your Presidency.
“It encourages the view that those who fight corruption can, with the connivance of senior government officials, be brought down or incapacitated through flimsy and totally unsubstantiated accusations of wrongdoing.”
Urging the President to be conscious of the fact that the era of United States (U.S) President Donald Trump is drawing to a close, HEDA said: “We expect the incoming Joe Biden Presidency to strongly resume the global fight against corruption warning that the suspicious trial of Magu and the implication on the fight against corruption is likely to be for US-Nigeria relationship, in particular around law enforcement and cooperation.
“Nigeria needs those of the calibre of Mr. Magu to be at the forefront of the fight against corruption, not side-lined because he insists that no-one should be beyond the reach of the law. Without Magu’s leadership, as the High Court in London recognised, the P&ID case would likely have been decided in P&ID’s favour.
“With Eni now taking Nigeria to the International Centre for Settlement of Investor Disputes for declining (rightly) to convert OPL 245 to an Oil Mining License, the restoration of Magu to his office is of paramount importance.”