Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami (SAN) has sought clarification from the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Festus Keyamo, in relation to the charge they filed against the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar.
The clarification, which was contained in a query, dated February 16 and signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Mr. Dayo Apata, was made available to reporters yesterday in Abuja.
Apata said the EFCC Acting Chairman had up to today to advance his response to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
The query asked Magu to explain what informed the filing of corruption charges against the tribunal chairman, having been cleared of corruption allegation two times by the same EFCC.
One of the letters titled: “FRN VS Danladi Umar (CR/109/18) request for briefing,” reads in part: “The attention of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation was drawn to news report that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed charges of corruption against the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Hon. Justice Umar, before Chief Justice Ishaq Bello of the FCT High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja.
“I am directed by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation to seek clarification from you as to whether the charges were filed on your instruction or directive and if in the affirmative, what is the compelling basis for doing so. This clarification becomes imperative in view of the following background facts.
“The commission’s investigation report dated March 5, 2015 addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation stated as follows: “The facts as they are now against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will therefore not be sufficient to successfully prosecute for the defence.
“The commission’s position in paragraph 2(a) above was also maintained and sustained by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation while appearing before the House of Representatives’ Investigative Committee sometimes in 2015 to the effect that report of investigations showed that the allegations against Hon. Justice Danladi Umar were based on mere suspicions.
“In view of the foregoing, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation requests for your prompt briefing as to the existence of new facts, which are contrary to the position in your attached investigation report, sufficient evidence or other developments upon which the prosecution of Hon. Justice Danladi can be successfully based.
“Kindly accord this letter top priority while your prompt response within 48 hours from the receipt of same is required in the circumstances.”
A separate letter to Keyamo, who was purportedly engaged as a private lawyer by Magu to prosecute the CCT boss, also requested him to confirm who authorised him to file the corruption charge against Umar.
Like Magu, the senior lawyer was given till today to furnish the Office of the AGF in writing detail of who engaged or issued him with authority to file the corruption charges.
The letter to Keyamo was also dated February 16 and signed by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary.
It reads in part: “The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation hereby requests that you kindly furnish this office with the details of the instruction or authorisation upon which you instituted the case under reference. Kindly accord this letter top priority while your prompt response on or before Tuesday, February 20, 2018 is solicited in this regard.”
When contacted yesterday, Keyamo acknowledged receiving a letter from the Federal Ministry of Justice on the CCT Chairman’s issue.
Keyamo said he found nothing unusual about the letter. He said it was a private letter sent to him for enquiry and to which he has since responded.
He declined to dwell on the content of the letter.
Keyamo said: “I received a letter from the Ministry of Justice. It is not a query. It’s an enquiry and I have responded to it.
“It was a private letter, and I don’t have to make the content of a private letter public. Yes, I received a letter and I have responded to it.”
The EFCC had written two separate letters to the Federal Government in 2015 and 2016 through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
They cleared Umar of any wrongdoing in the alleged N10 million bribery allegations made against him by a defendant, Rasheed Taiwo Owolabi, who was standing trial before him on false asset declaration.
Upon receipt of the petition from Owolabi, the EFCC had investigated the petition and sent its report to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) dated March 5, 2015 and personally signed by the then EFCC Executive Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde.
The letter exonerated the CCT boss of the bribery allegation.
The EFCC report said: “The facts as they are against Justice Umar raised a mere suspicion and will, therefore, not be sufficient to successfully prosecute for the offence.”
Other EFCC’s documents showed that in 2016, a fresh investigation was conducted into the same N10 million bribery allegation and the same anti-graft agency, in its second report, again absolved Umar of any wrongdoing.
Findings revealed that the action of Magu in instituting criminal charges against Umar had caused serious confusion and embarrassment to the Federal Government because the EFCC reports had made clear that the CCT boss had no case to answer.
The AGF was said to have been thoroughly embarrassed with the corruption charges because he had already informed the National Assembly that Umar had no corruption case to answer based on the two reports of EFCC to the Federal Government.
The commission had on February 2, brought a two-count charge against the CCT Chairman bordering on alleged receipt of the N10 million bribe from Taiwo. The charge was signed by Keyamo as a private prosecuting counsel and one Offem Uket, an official of EFCC.
Umar was accused of receiving N1.8 million through his personal assistant, Gambo Abdullahi.
March 15 has been fixed for arraignment of the CCT boss at the High Court of FCT, Abuja.