…insists witness summon against him unconstitutional
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Thursday, gave reasons why he would not appear as a witness in the ongoing probe of the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, by the Justice Ayo Salami-led panel of inquiry.
In a statement that was signed by his media aide, Dr. Jibrilu Gwandu, the AGF, maintained that his refusal to testify before the panel was “purely constitutional and not based on any ulterior motive”.
Malami contended that as an AGF, his appearance or otherwise as a witness in any investigation should be a constitutional matter.
“In establishing propriety or otherwise of the presence of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice whose responsibility is to hold constitutional order one must root same within the constitutional provisions.
“The terms and wordings of invitation extended to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to Justice Ayo Panel of inquiry against Magu runs contrary to the Constitutional provisions.
“The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is by the provision of the Constitution and extant laws empowered to serve supervisory role.
“In the case of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been discharging the role effectively”, the statement further read.
It will be recalled that the suspended EFCC boss who is facing probe over allegations bordering on abuse of office and mismanagement of Federal Government Recovered Assets and Finances from May 2015 to May 2020, had through his lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, applied for Malami to be compelled to appear before the panel to give evidence and tender a copy of the memo to President Muhammadu Buhari that led to his suspension as EFCC Chairman.
In the application dated September 4, Magu, requested for Subpoena Duces Tecum and Subpoena Ad Testificandum to be issued on Malami who he described as his “main accuser”.
Magu specifically applied for Malami to appear before the panel to substantiate his allegations that: “The Acting Chairman of EFCC is not acting in the overall best interest of the country and the policies of this administration due to its Mismanagement and Lack of Transparency in Managing Recovered Assets; Diversion of Recovered Assets for Personal Enrichment; Neglecting to Investigate the P&ID case as directed by the President;
“Flagrant Disobedience to Directives and to Court Orders due to the following; Final Report Of The Presidential Committee on Audit Of Recovered Assets (PCARA): Mismanagement and Lack of Transparency in Managing Recovered Assets”.
He relied on Section 5(c) of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act 2004, which he said empowered the tribunal to summon any person in Nigeria to attend and give evidence or produce any document or other thing in his possession and to be examined as a witness.
In his earlier response to Magu’s request, Malami, in a statement he issued on September 9, said he would readily do anything to assist the probe panel, including appearing to testify as a witness.
He said: “Within the context of the rule of law, I have a responsibility as the Chief Law Officer of the Country as Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to assist whatever investigation taking place locally or internationally.
“For your information, I have signed and executed around eight witness statements before the Commercial Court in UK which translated to the victory we are celebrating today.
“So, the idea of testimony, the idea of appearance of the Office of the Attorney-General and indeed with the particular reference to Abubakar Malami before any panel, before any tribunal local and international for the purpose of supporting an investigation that will see to the establishment and unravelling the truth associated with an issue under consideration, is not new.
“I will in no way exercise any restraints as per as honoring an invitation for the purpose of supporting any inquiry.
“So, if Ayo Salami Panel invites Abubakar Malami, SAN as a person or the Attorney-General of the Federation, for any testimony or any clarification, for any examination or cross-examination for that matter, Abubakar Malami will definitely and gladly within the spirit and context of rule of law be there to testify and will submit myself to be cross-examined within the context of the rule of law”.
Malami said by virtue of his position and the rule of law, he is required to be submissive whenever he is called upon to clarify issues, be examined or cross-examined, and should wholeheartedly be there and gladly cooperate with the inquiring institution.
The AGF said he had along the chain of arbitral process, submitted to uncountable invitations and responded to uncountable requests to clarify issues and indeed executed uncountable witness statements for the purpose of putting the record straight.
“The case of Salami will certainly not be an exception”, he added.
Consequently, in line with Magu’s application, the Justice Salami-led panel signed and issued a Subpoena to the AGF to appear and give evidence before it.
The Subpoena read: “You are hereby Commanded in the name of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to give evidence in respect of your allegations against Mr Ibrahim Magu”.
Vanguard learned that Malami had since written a letter to the panel to reject the invitation that was extended to him.
He hinged his refusal to honour the summon on the fact that the allegations against Magu was based on petitions that were sent to his office.