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Muiz Banire, the National Legal Adivser of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has stepped down from his position.
In a letter to Chief John Oyegun the National Chairman of APC, Banire said he is stepping aside from the position following ongoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over suspicious payment to a judge of National Industrial Court linked to him.
Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN had come under the radar of the anti graft agency following a discovery that he paid N500,000 to the account belonging to the judge.
EFCC had also interrogated the senior lawyer about the payment and Banire had insisted that the money was meant to help the judicial officer who he described as a long time acquaintance to take care of some pressing needs.
But in his letter dated November 8, which was also copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the APC chieftain said he has to step aside to allow the EFCC freely investigate the suspicious payment.
The letter partly reads, “The allegation, as I have come to understand it, is that a statement of account of one judge of the National Industrial Court, the Honourable Justice J. T. Agbadu-Fishim, who is the subject of an ongoing EFCC’s investigation, contained a June 2013 entry of a ‘N500,000.00’ payment ascribed as being from one ‘Dr. Muiz B’,” the letter read.
“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, informing me of the death and funeral programme of his mother.
“The last contact (of any sort) I had with this person before that text would have been about 14 years 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 ago).
“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 the EFCC on Thursday the 3rd day of November, 2016.
“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 the 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,” he said.
“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 amongst 12 cases in all they have ever done at the Industrial Court since inception.
“My review of the two case files which I came to be conscious of after my interactions with the EFCC shows that one of them was amicably settled between the parties for a sum less than N1.2m, thereby technically losing the case, whilst they won the other and that the combined professional fees (net of taxes) for the two cases was less than N2m.
“While protesting my innocence, and will therefore do everything within legal limits to defend myself, I have, from the first instance, become aware of the allegation, offered my full cooperation to the EFCC and will continue to cooperate with, and give it all the assistance it may require of me in the course of its ongoing investigation into the matter.”
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