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Banire steps aside as APC legal adviser

•Over EFCC investigation •Writes Odigie-Oyegun, APC national chair

In an unprecedented move, the national legal adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Muiz Adeyemi Banire, has stepped aside from his office pending the conclusion of the investigation into the allegation of his involvement in a bribery scandal of some judges.

This decision was contained in a letter to the national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, personally signed by Banire.

Consequently, Banire has further communicated this development to the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, offering to also step aside as member, Electoral Reform Committee of the government. This, he said, was in the same spirit of the moral ground that justifies his stepping aside as APC national legal adviser.

Titled: “Offer to step aside as national legal adviser pending conclusion of investigation of my person by  EFCC”, copies of the five-page letter was also sent to  President, Muhammadu Buhari and his vice,  Yemi Osinbajo.

Explaining why he chose to toe this moral high ground, Banire said “On Saturday,  October29, 2016, I read online, a publication titled “APC national legal adviser, Muiz Banire, Allegedly paid federal judge =N=500k”. I was not only shocked by the purport of the publication against my person but  disturbed by its negative propagandist effect on our party, the government it leads at the federal level and above all, our signature programme of anti-corruption in public life.

“I, therefore, immediately on the same day, wrote a letter which was delivered to and acknowledged by  EFCC on Monday,  October31, 2016, submitting myself to investigation on the allegation and offering to visit EFCC offices in Lagos, on Tuesday, November1, 2016, to be interrogated as part of that investigation. A copy of the said letter of request is enclosed herewith. Ostensibly, due to the constraints of its heavy work schedule, my request to attend the EFCC to be interrogated on the allegation did not receive attention until Thursday,  November3, 2016.

“The allegation, as I have come to understand it, is that a statement of account of one Judge of the National Industrial Court,  Justice J. T. Agbadu-Fishim, who is the subject of an ongoing EFCC’s investigation, contained a June 2013 entry of a “=N=500,000.00” payment ascribed as being from one “Dr Muiz B”.

“I did not hesitate in confirming that this, probably referred to me because I remember that about three years ago, I received a text message from someone I recollected at the time to be an old colleague in my days as a lecturer at the University of Lagos, an ‘Agbadu-Fishim’ who was then a research fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies,

“The last contact (of any sort), I had with this person before that text would have been about  14years earlier, that is, before I was appointed Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State, at the inception of civil rule in 1999 (now 17 years).

“As far as assumption goes, he was to me, at the time of his contact, still employed by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies; he never informed me that he had moved on to become a judge of any court in Nigeria and I had never throughout my own career as a legal practitioner or public functionary ever appeared in any case before any judge whatsoever at the National Industrial Court or attended any function of the National Industrial Court that would have put me on notice that the Agbadu-Fishim I used to know had become a judge of the National Industrial Court.

“Indeed, it was with considerable difficulty that I was able to eventually recognise his face when I eventually saw him again (after 17 years of my leaving the University of Lagos) on my attendance at EFCC on Thursday,  November3, 2016.”

Continuing, Banire said, “When I received the said message and his information to me of the death and funeral programme of his mother in which he solicited for financial assistance in a tone suggesting great distress, I considered it necessary to assist an old friend in dire need. Without any further prompting, he sent his account details to me and I made a cash gift of N500,000.00 to him.

“As I have now come to realise after my interactions with EFCC that payment is being investigated from the angle of whether or not it was to influence the receiver in the performance of his judicial duties on the Bench of the National Industrial Court. This is perfectly understandable to me within the general context of the investigation in which the allegation had arisen and considering that I have lately come to also realise that two of my colleagues in chambers had been involved as defence counsel in two cases before the subject judge among  12 cases in all they have ever done at the Industrial Court since inception.

“Therefore, as surreal as I find the allegation to be, I will not stand by and watch it negatively affect the name of the Party. I will rather stand by, even in the unfair circumstance I have narrated, than allow the party that I (with you and our other leaders and members across the length and breadth of Nigeria) have sacrificed brain and brawn to build-up into the formidable party it has become as a potential tool for the political re-engineering of Nigeria, and the emancipation of our peoples from want in the midst of plenty, spreading illiteracy in the age of knowledge, the ravages of commonplace diseases that have become history in other climes, and such other manifestations of poor governance that have been and remained our lot, even after 56 years of independence from colonialism.

“Mr. Chairman, Sir, it is in view of the above circumstances that I wish to temporarily step aside from my position on our National Working Committee as the National Legal Adviser of our Party until completion and final outcome of the EFCC investigation involving my person,” he said.