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Drama at EFCC probe panel venue

…As Justice Salami orders security agents to walk out Magu’s lawyers 

Drama played out at the Presidential Villa, Abuja venue of the sitting of the Justice Isa Commission of Enquiry probing the affairs of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the former Court of Appeal president directed security agents to walk out two lawyers, Prof Zainab Duke Abiola and Mr Aliyu Lemu. 

The two are members of the legal team of the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, who is being probed by Salami panel over alleged mismanagement of recovered assets and abuse of office. 

The Nigerian Xpress gathered that the drama began about 11.50 am when Mr Wahab Shittu, who has been appearing for Magu, stood up to introduce other members of the legal team. 

Shittu was said to have been interrupted by Justice Salami who insisted that Magu would only be defended by the lead counsel. 

Justice Salami thereafter directed security agents to walk out the Abiola and Lemu from the venue. 

Shittu has appeared for Magu for the past two months and raised certain issues including fair hearing for his client and the need to cross-examine witnesses who testified against his clients.

Shittu was said to have led Abiola and Lemu to the venue of the panel on Monday due to the seriousness of the matter.

Prof Abiola is a renowned human rights activist, anti-corruption crusader, member of the British Bar and the Akasoba of Kalabari Kingdom. 

Upon arrival at the venue, Shittu introduced members of his team before the panel and as soon as he finished speaking, Justice Salami ruled that only Shittu would be allowed to represent Magu, insisting that other members of the team would have to leave the venue. 

Attempts by Shittu and Prof Abiola to explain the sanctity of legal representation for Magu were resisted by Salami and other members panel who refused to listen to their explanations. 

But Monday’s proceedings took a new dimension when Salami immediately ordered security agents to escort Abiola and Lemu out of the venue. 

Reacting to the incident, Prof Duke Abiola expressed her disappointment with the conduct of the panel. 

She 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. It is unacceptable and patently illegal.”

Prof Abiola further said she was appalled by the treatment meted out to her, saying that the development was 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. 

She expressed the fact that the conduct of the panel indicated a descent into a Hobbesian state where the powerful trample upon the honest and upright citizens’ quest to serve their country with honour and integrity. 

She expressed the need for Nigerians to stand up in support of their anti-corruption champions.

Abiola also called for an end to the travesty and charade being conducted by the panel, saying that its action might ridicule Nigeria in the international anti-corruption community.