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EFCC Chairmanship Position: Court fixes Dec 4 to decide Magus’s fate

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Monday, fixed December 4 to deliver judgement on consolidated suits challenging the continued stay of Mr Ibrahim Magu as the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

EFCC, Ibrahim Magu
Ibrahim Magu, Acting Executive Chairman, EFCC

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu adjourned to decide Magu’s fate after the court heard and adopted final briefs of argument in five separate suits bordering on the legality or otherwise of his continued headship of the anti-graft agency.

Whereas four of the suits that came up for hearing on Monday, prayed the court to declare Magu’s stay in office as illegal since his nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari was twice rejected by the Senate, the fifth suit urged the court to hold that he could validly remain as the Acting Head of the agency despite Senate’s decision against him.

The court okayed judgement on the matter, almost two years after the suit was filed.

Defendants in the case are President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Senate, as well as Magu and the EFCC.

It will be recalled that the Senate under the 8th National Assembly had on December 15, 2016, held an executive session during which it rejected the nomination of Mr Magu as the Chairman of the EFCC by President Buhari, based on an adverse ‘security report’ that was allegedly authorised by the Department of State Service, DSS.

Though a total of 12 legal actions were filed before the court after President Buhari gave Magu the nod to remain in office notwithstanding the rejection of his nomination by the Senate, seven of them were subsequently struck out for want of diligent prosecution.

The court had in 2017, merged all the suits based on a joint application that was filed by President Buhari and the AGF.

Relying on provisions of Order 11 and 26 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009, Buhari and Malami said the application was to obviate the possibility of different judges of the court delivering conflicting judgments on Magu’s issue.

However, shortly after the suits were consolidated in a ruling that was delivered on June 4, 2017, by Justice Binta Nyako, the EFCC boss, petitioned the Chief Judge of the Court and requested that the matter be re-assigned to another Judge.

Magu, in the petition he wrote through his lawyer, Mr Wahab Shittu, further asked that all cases involving the EFCC, which were before Justice Nyako, be transferred to another Judge of the high court.

He said the application was necessary “to avoid bias and conflict of interest”, stressing that the EFCC under his leadership had placed Justice Nyako’s husband and her stepson on trial over their alleged involvement in money laundering.

“The Commission is prosecuting the spouse and stepson of his Lordship, namely; Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) and Senator Abdulaziz Nyako respectively”, Magu added in his petition dated July 31, 2017.

Determined to ensure that Justice Nyako was not allowed to preside over the suit against his prolonged stay as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Magu, in a second letter dated October 5, 2017, drew the attention of the Court’s Registrar to his petition.

His letter titled ‘Re: EFCC’s Request For Transfer Of All Consolidated Matters Involving EFCC And Its Acting Chairman From Honourable Justice Binta Nyako’s Court To Any Other Court Of The Federal High Court’, was copied to the Solicitor General of the Federation and all counsel in the proceeding.

Consequently, hearing of all the suits suffered setback for almost two years until it was re-assigned to Justice Ojukwu.

Meanwhile, both the AGF who also represented President Buhari and Magu, filed preliminary objections to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to entertain suits they contended were filed by persons without the requisite locus standi.

The Defendants argued that President Buhari has the powers to retain Magu to head the EFCC in Acting Capacity, insisting that such action would not amount to an abuse of any known law in the country.

However, in one of the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/159/17, which was filed by a constitutional lawyer, Mr Jideobi Johnmary, he faulted the position of the three Defendants.

He noted that the Defendants had in all the processes they filed before the court failed to point out the exact date that President Buhari appointed Magu as the Acting Chairman.

The Plaintiff argued that pointing out the date would enable the court to determine whether the period the constitution allowed Magu to stay in office in Acting capacity, had elapsed.

He therefore prayed the court to among other things, declare “that under and by virtue of section 2 (3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act 2004, the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, cannot continue to function in office as Acting Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, after the decision of the 1st Defendant, The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which rejected the nomination of the 4th Defendant as Chairman of the 3rd Defendant.

“A solemn declaration of this honourable court, that the failure, omission or neglect by the 4th Defendant to vacate and relinquish his office as Acting Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, after the rejection of his nomination by the 1st Defendant, has disqualified him from further consideration for confirmation as the substantive Chairman of the 3rd Defendant by the 1st Defendant, The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“A solemn declaration of this honourable court, that the 2nd Defendant, the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, and through him the Federal Government of Nigeria, are bound by the decision of the 1st Defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, rejecting the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, as Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and cannot continue to treat, recognize, deal with or deploy the 4th Defendant as Acting Chairman of the 3rd Defendant.

“A solemn declaration of this honourable court, that the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, is not a fit and proper person to lead the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as its Chairman, either in its acting or substantive capacity.

“A solemn declaration of this honourable court the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, is not and cannot be the Acting Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“A solemn declaration of this honourable court, that the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, its servants and officers are bound by the decision of the 1st Defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, rejecting the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, as Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and cannot continue to treat, recognize or deal with the 4th Defendant as its Acting Chairman.

A solemn declaration of this honourable court that all actions taken by the 3rd Defendant, especially charges and information filed in various courts, during the period when the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, acted in excess of his legal term as Acting Chairman thereof, are illegal, null, void and invalid.

“An injunction restraining the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, whether by himself, his servants, agents or privies, or in any manner whatsoever from functioning in office as or from performing or continuing to perform the duties of or from holding himself out or parading himself as the Acting Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“An injunction restraining the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, whether by itself, its servants, officers, agents or privies, or in any manner whatsoever from holding out or parading, treating, recognizing or in any other manner dealing with the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, as its Acting Chairman”.

As well as, “An order forthwith, directing the 4th Defendant, Ibrahim Magu, to vacate, relinquish and surrender his office as Acting Chairman of the 3rd Defendant, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission”.

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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