Reports revealed that two lawyers identified as Prof. Zainab Duke Abiola and Mr. Aliyu Lemu were walked out by security agents from the sitting of Commission of Enquiry at the presidential villa, Abuja on the orders of Justice Ayo Isa Salami.
We learnt that the two lawyers were part of the legal team of the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who is being probed over alleged mismanagement of recovered assets and abuse of office.
Eyewitnesses disclosed that the lawyers were ordered to be walked out at about 11:50am when Mr. Wahab Shittu who has been appearing for Magu stood up to introduce other members of the legal team.
But Mr. Shittu was reportedly interrupted by Justice Salami who insisted that only him would be allowed to defend Magu. He, thereafter directed the security agents to “bundle” out the lawyers from the venue.
Recall that Shittu, Magu’s legal counsel has appeared for Magu for the past two months and has repeatedly raised certain issues, including fair hearing for his client and the need to cross-examine witnesses who testified against Magu.
According to media sources from Magu’s camp, Shittu-led Prof. Abiola and Mr. Lemu to the venue of the panel yesterday because of the seriousness of the issues raised.
Sources also revealed that Magu’s counsel, Shittu introduced members of his team before the panel upon arrival at the venue before Justice Salami ordered that only Shittu would be allowed to represent Magu, insisting that other members of the team wiould have to leave the venue.
Attempts by Shittu and 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.
Abiola expressed her disappointment with the conduct of the panel.
She said: “What happened today (yesterday) 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 haring. It is unacceptable and patently illegal.”
Abiola further expressed the fact that she was appalled by the treatment meted out to her, saying the development was unprecedented in the history of Nigerian legal system as even in the worst days of the military junta, people had the right to be represented by lawyers of their choice.
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 its action may ridicule Nigeria in the international anti-corruption community.