ANTI CORRUPTION GROUP CALLS FOR DISBANDMENT OF PANEL PROBBING IBRAHIM MAGU
Written by MaryGift Sunday on November 16, 2020
The former Acting Chairperson, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, is unlikely to get justice at the Ayo Salami anel set to probe him, Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group and its international partners have said.
In a letter addressed to President Mohammadu Buhari, the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre), Global witness, Cornerhouse and Re:Common said the panel has spent more days than necessary without establishing any serious case against the former EFCC boss.
The group urged Mr Buhari to disband the panel and save Nigeria from local and international embarrassment, if it cannot establish a proven case of corruption against Mr Magu
It is the third time HEDA and its partners have raised the same concern in six months.
The letter signed by HEDA’s Chair Olanrewaju Suraju; Global witness Director, Simon Taylor; Cornerhouse Director Nicholas Hildyard; and Re:Common Director Luca Manes expressed profound concerns over the conduct of the judicial inquiry into allegations made by the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, that Mr Magu had abused his office when he was Acting Chair of the EFCC.
The group said it has 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.”
Mr 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 Mr Magu and slow down the anti-corruption wheel.
“At almost every stage, Mr 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 Mr Magu being present. Witnesses have been allowed to testify without swearing to an oath of truth” HEDA and it’s partners said.
The group said Mr 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.
Mr Suraju said “We have no reason to doubt the integrity of the Panel’s chair, Mr Justice Ayo Isa Salami before his appointment; but he is just one member of a Panel that has been packed with Ministry of Justice and security agency officials who are among Magu’s accusers.”
Moreover, the groups expressed worry about reports that Mr Magu’s chief accuser, Mr Malami, has set up an in-house committee to write the Panel’s report.
“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.”
The group said it wondered how much longer the travesty would continue.
It said the panel has had its time, disobeyed the clear instructions to report by a specific deadline and should now be disbanded.
“If the Panel has not found credible evidence against Mr 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” The groups said.
The anti-corruption groups argued that every day that passes with this matter unresolved is a day that gives succour to those who oppose the Government’s fight against corruption.
“We cannot overstate the damage that Attorney General Malami’s vendetta against Mr 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.” HEDA said.
The group urged President Buhari to be conscious of the fact that the era of United States President, Donald Trump, is drawing to a close adding that it expects the incoming Joe Biden Presidency to strongly resume the global fight against corruption.
The group warned that the suspicious trial of Mr 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.”
HEDA said without Mr Magu, Nigeria can only be handicapped in resisting Eni’s bullying.
The group urged President Buhari to take firm decisions to restore the diminishing reputation of the country in her fight against corruption.