In a move unprecedented in the nation’s political history, the National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire, has offered to step 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 the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, personally signed by Banire and dated today, Tuesday, November 8, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY.
Consequently, Banire has further communicated this development to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), offering to also step aside as a 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 the EFCC,’ copies of the five-page letter was also sent to the President, Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Explaining why he chose to toe this moral high ground, Banire said: “On Saturday, October 29, 2016, I read online, a publication titled ‘APC National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, Allegedly paid Federal Judge N500,000.’ I was not only shocked by the purport of the publication against my person, but extremely 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 the EFCC on October 31, 2016, submitting myself to investigation on the allegation, and offering to visit the EFCC offices in Lagos on November 1, 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 November 3, 2016.
“The allegation, as I have come to understand it, is that a statement of account of one judge of the National Industrial Court, the Justice J. T. Agbadu-Fishim, who is the subject of an ongoing EFCC’s investigation, contained a June 2013 entry of a ‘N500,000’ 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, 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).
“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 the EFCC on November 3, 2016.”