The non appearance of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by President Muhammad u Buhari and presided over by for me President, Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami has continued to generate a lot of furore in the anti corruption circles.
While some people, according to reports find it strange that the AGF did not appear before the presidential panel, despite a subpoena issued for his appearance, others believe his appearance as a witness is not necessary as it will prevent him from advising the president on the recommendations of the panel to the president when it is finally submitted, a constitutional role he cannot shirk.
The AGF also in his letter to the panel said his charges against the former Acting Chairman, Economic and Financia Crimes Commission(EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu was based on several petitions he received against him. Having filed the charges, his job was done.
Also, a group, Global Integrity Crusade Network(GICN) also believed that Mr Malami need not appear before the presidential panel.
Mr Ibrahim Magu had consistently requested the opportunity to confront his accuser before the Panel including an opportunity to be given the allegations leveled against him by the Mr Malami. Magu believed that Mr Malami ought to have appeared before the panel to substantiate the allegations he leveled against him in the memo he wrote to President Buhari which was the basis upon which the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was set up by the President.
However, upon conclusion of presentation of witnesses before the Commission of Inquiry, Mr Ibrahim Magu was called upon to present his defence which he has done by presenting a volumes of written responses to all the allegations against him backed by numerous exhibits and truck load of documents showing his achievements as the Acting Chairman of EFCC and official documents showing that no recovered assets was missing or diverted to personal use for his benefit or those of his close associates.
Mr Magu had also requested the Tribunal to issue subpoenas to certain persons to appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to give evidence in support of their allegations and to be cross-examined upon such wild and unsubstantiated allegations.
In line with Mr Magu’s request, Justice Salami issued a Subpoena to Mr Malami to appear before the panel at the instance of Mr Magu to come and substantiate the allegations he made against him.
In the said Subpoena, it was stated as follows; “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”.
But instead of appearing before the panel, Mr Malami wrote a letter in reply to the subpoena, stating that he would not appear as a witness.He hinged his non-appearance on the fact that he only made charges against Mr Magu based on the petitions he received against him in his office.
Now that the main accuser of Mr Ibrahim Magu did not appear before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the world waits to see what justice Salami will recommend.
But Global Integrity Crusade Network(GICN), called for caution on the invitation.Malami.
GICN at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday explained why the AGF should not appear before the panel.
Executive Director of GICN, Barrister Edward Omaga, said it is needless for the AGF to appear before the panel because the panel has gathered evidence which are enough to do justice in its report
He said since the proceedings at the panel began, the group decided not to dabble into the affairs of the panel, to enable the panel come up with a report that cannot be faulted by Nigerians because ”we trust the integrity of the former president of the Court of Appeal”.
Omaga said, ”There were reports that the Attorney General of the federation and minister of justice(AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) is to appear as witness before the panel and like we rightly stated earlier, we at GICN want the members of panel to be allowed to use their own wisdom in discharging their mandate without being teleguided by people who are supposed to be busy defending themselves by responding to allegations made against them.
”Already, the panel has gathered evidence which are enough to do substantial justice. In case those calling on the AGF to appear the before the panel do not know, the AGF has been playing a supervisory role on the EFCC and we make bold to say that the number one chief law officer of the Country has played this role creditably well, so there is no need to have him as witness before the panel.
”We at GICN also need to remind them that after the completion of the sitting of the panel, the report of the panel would be sent to President Muhammadu Buhari, who will in turn seek the legal view of the AGF, so, if he is invited to be a witness before the panel, he would be deprived from offering his constitutionaly recognized legal view when sort, having appeared as a witness at the panel.
”The handwriting of some mischievous elements is very clear. There may appear conflicting roles as AGF may be regarded as a witnessing party and someone offering legal advice on the matter to Mr. President. We envisage a situation where some individuals want use this as a bait to deprive the AGF of rendering his Constitutional responsibilities of offering legal advice on the matter as well as deprived Nigerians from benefiting from the AGF’s legal acumen.
”Therefore, we are calling on the Justice Isa Ayo Salami panel to ignore the call for Mr Malami to appear as a witness before it”.
He said if the minister is allowed to appear as a witness before the panel, it will compromise his constitutional duty adding that as AGF, inviting him is tantamount to compromising his legal duties.
He also said in framing a charge, as is the case with all other proceedings, the office of the Attorney General is exercising a constitutional role of prosecution and not a role of testimony.
Omaga also stated, ”Demanding the office of the Attorney General to testify in a witness capacity, in a facts findings enquiry, will have the effect of compromising on its constitutional role of the office of the AGF as it relates to the examination of the eventual discoveries within the context of its constitutional role.
”The constitution does not envisage the role of a witness in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation over a matter in which it stand in a prosecutorial and supervisory role.
”It can not therefore be placed in a compromise position making it impossible for the office to exercise its constitutional role of proffering a legal opinion or prosecuting the allegations when the report establishes a prima facile case justifying prosecution”.