By Soni Daniel
Two prominent Nigerian lawyers, who appeared for Ibrahim Magu, the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, were on Monday walked out of the venue of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry taking place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on orders of the chairman, Justice Ayo Salami.
The reason for the stoppage of the senior lawyers- Prof Zainab Duke Abiola and Mr Aliyu Lemu- from representing Magu in company with Wahab Shittu, who has been representing the embattled chairman, was not however made known by the eminent jurist.
Competent sources at the tribunal said trouble started at about 11.50 am when Mr Wahab Shittu, who has been appearing for Magu, stood up to introduce the two other members of the legal team.
But Justice Salami was said to have interrupted Shittu and insisted that only he would be allowed to defend Magu.
Salami, thereafter, asked the security agents to walk them out the two respected lawyers from the venue.
Prof Abiola, a renowned human rights activist, anti-corruption crusader, member of the British Bar and the Akasoba of Kalabari Kingdom, is also the widow of the late Chief MKO Abiola who lived and died for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.
Upon arrival at the venue, Shittu introduced members of his team before the Panel and as soon as he finished speaking, Justice Salami ordered that only Shittu would be allowed to represent Magu, insisting that other members of the team would have to leave the venue.
Spirited attempts by Shittu and Prof Abiola to explain the sanctity of legal representation for Magu were resisted by Salami and other members of the panel who refused to listen to their explanations.
Reacting to the incident, Prof Duke Abiola expressed disappointment with the conduct of the panel.
Mrs Abiola said: “What happened today has highlighted the nature and manner the panel of inquiry has been conducting its sittings secretly against the presidential directive and the instrument setting it up, that it should hold a public inquiry. It is unacceptable and patently illegal”.
Prof Abiola further expressed the fact that she was appalled by the treatment meted out to her, saying that the development is unprecedented in the history of Nigerian legal system as even in the worst days of the Nigerian Military Junta, Nigerians had the right to be represented by lawyers of their choice.