Wahab Shittu, the counsel to the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, said the Friday ruling by a British commercial court has proved that Mr Magu should be given a heroic commendation for the favourable judgement secured by the country.
The commercial court presided over by Justice Ross Cranston granted Nigeria’s appeal for a stay of execution of the award of $8.9 billion (about N3.2 trillion) in favour of P&ID, a controversial British firm that secured a gas contract in Nigeria.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, had accused the suspended EFCC boss of failing to act promptly on the P&ID investigation.
He said Mr Magu’s nonchalant attitude would have cost Nigeria to lose an estimated N47 billion ($85 million).
“These losses would be directly linked to the lack of response by the Acting Chairman or lack of coordination and the Acting Chairman’s recalcitrant attitude to work,” Mr Malami wrote.
But a PREMIUM TIMES analysis on the UK Business & Property Courts (the Commercial Court), judgement, however, revealed that the EFCC investigations were instrumental in convincing the court to deliver Friday’s judgement that was favourable to Nigeria.
The court papers also showed that the EFCC almost immediately swung into action, invited the legal directors of the Ministry of Justice and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for interrogation into what it described as “a conspiracy, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.”
“From late February 2016 until 2 March 2016 these officials were interviewed and they provided the EFCC with documents relating to the GSPA and the arbitration,” the British judge ruled.
Mr Shittu, in a statement, on Sunday, described the UK court judgement as a monumental landmark achievement occasioned by Mr Magu’s hard work.
The lawyer also quoted paragraphs 251, 253, 254 and page 260 of the judgment where the British court held that it was satisfied with the way and manner the EFCC carried out its investigation.
“The judgment has indeed greatly relived the country from the impending and disastrous effect the execution of the $9.6b judgment plus interest would have had on our fragile economy.
“The decision once more shows that rather than punish Mr. Magu over his handling of the investigation, he should be given a heroic commendation for saving the country in a huge way.
“Magu should be celebrated rather than be vilified. It is rather unfortunate that the handling of the P & ID investigation forms part of the allegations against him,” Mr Shittu said.
He added that many of the EFCC operatives including Mr Magu who had worked in favour of the country are currently on suspension without pay or transferred out of the agency.
“The public does not know that while this investigation was on going, the investigators and prosecutors including Magu used to close from work at 1am, 2am and resumed by 8am including Saturdays and Sundays.
“Unfortunately some of these men are currently on suspension without pay or transferred out of EFCC for doing nothing but working assiduously to save this country. They were not given any allegation or issued query. Contrariwise, the investigation against Mr Magu and the EFCC would have caused the country to lose the judgment.
“This is because P&ID used the petition by the AGF against Mr Magu to strengthen their case with Nigeria. Luckily, we have an upright English Judge who prudently appreciated the excellent and patriotic effort of the EFCC under Magu and the ineffectiveness of the AGF’s complaint,” he added.
Mr Magu is currently being investigated by a panel headed by Ayo Salami, a former president of the Court of Appeal, over allegations of graft and insubordination levelled against him by Mr Malami.
Mr Magu was detained for 10 days before his appearance before the panel. After his arrest, allegations that he diverted billions of naira of recovered funds as well as the interests accruing from the funds circulated in the media.
Mr Magu has repeatedly denied the allegations, describing them as baseless.