By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has given the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, 48 hours to explain why the agency filed corruption charges against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, Mr. Danladi Umar.
Malami, in his letter dated February 16 with Reference No DPP/ADV:368/15, said the clarification was necessitated by the fact that EFCC under Magu, had on two occassions, cleared the CCT boss of complicity in the N10million bribery allegation upon which the charge was based.
The AGF said the EFCC Chairman should in his response to the query, clarify whether he indeed gave instruction or directive for the charge to be filed, and if in the affirmative, explain the compelling basis for the action.
Magu was specifically directed to submit his response to the query which was signed by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, before Tuesday, February 20.
The query titled “FRN VS Danladi Umar (CR/109/18) request for Briefing”, read in part:
“The attention of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation was drawn to news report that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed charges of corruption against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Hon. Justice Danladi Umar, before the FCT High Court.
“I am directed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to seek clarification from you as to whether the charges were filed on your instruction or directive and if in the affirmative, what is the compelling basis for doing so. This clarification becomes imperative in view of the following background facts.
“The Commission’s investigation report dated 5th March 2015 addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation stated as follows: “The facts as they are now against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute for the defence.
“The Commission’s position in paragraph 2(a) above was also maintained and sustained by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation while appearing before the House of Representatives’ Investigative Committee sometimes in 2015 to the effect that report of investigations showed that the allegations against Hon. Justice Danladi Umar were based on mere suspicions.
“In view of the foregoing, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation requests for your prompt briefing as to the existence of new facts which are contrary to the position in your attached investigation report, sufficient evidence or other developments upon which the prosecution of Hon. Justice Danladi can be successfully based.
“Kindly accord this letter top priority while your prompt response within 48 hours from the receipt of same is required in the circumstances.”
In a related development, the AGF, in a separate letter with Reference No DPP/ADV:369/15, asked Lagos-based Lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, SAN, to confirm whether indeed he was engaged by EFCC to prosecute the charge against the CCT Chairman.
Keyamo was also given till Tuesday to furnish the Office of the AGF in writing, detail of who gave him the FIAT (authority) to file the charges.
The AGF’s letter to Keyamo read: “The attention of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation was drawn to news report that you have filed charges of corruption against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Hon. Justice Danladi Umar, before the FCT High Court.
“The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation hereby requests that you kindly furnish this office with the details of the instruction or authorization upon which you instituted the case under reference. Kindly accord this letter top priority while your prompt response on or before Tuesday, February 20, 2018 is solicited in this regard”.
It will be recalled the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello had last week, granted EFCC leave to dock the CCT boss on March 15 over allegation that he demanded N10m bribe from a defendant standing trial before the tribunal.
EFCC had in the two-count charge marked CR/109/18, alleged that Umar had sometime in 2012, demanded money from a retired Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi to influence the outcome of assets falsification charge that was entered against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
EFCC alleged that in furtherance of the deal, Owolabi, wired the sum of N1.8m to the CCT Chairman via a Zenith Bank account No. 1002849471, which was operated by his personal assistant, Alhaji Gambo Abdullahi.
The anti-graft agency said it has lined up six witnesses against the CCT Chairman.
However, the charge came five years after the EFCC, via two separate letters, said it was unable to establish a prima-facie case against Umar to warrant his prosecution alongside his aide who is already on trial.
Meanwhile, a group under the aegis of Kingdom Human Rights Foundation, on Monday, approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking it order the CCT chairman to vacate his office pending the determination of the charge against him.
The group, in its Originating Summons marked FHC/ABJ/CS/172/2018, the group, insisted that the CCT boss has breached thecode of conduct for public officers and should henceforth stop presiding over the tribunal.
More so, the plaintiff, through its lawyer, Mr. Okere Nnamdi, filed motion ex-parte for leave of court to apply for an order of mandamus to compel President Muhamadu Buhari and the National Assembly to commence the process of removing Umar as the CCT Chairman.
The plaintiff noted that going by the provisions of Paragraph 17 (3) of the 1999 constitution and section 22 (3) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunals Act, Chairman or member of the CCT could only be removed from office by the President acting on a resolution of 2/3 majority of members of the two chambers of the National Assembly.