The National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Muiz Adeyemi Banire (SAN), has stepped down from the position following an allegation that he bribed a judge with N500,000.
The decision is contained in a letter on Monday to the party’s National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Banire also wrote the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN) about his decision to quit his membership of the Electoral Reform Committee.
He said he was offering to step aside on moral grounds until investigation into the allegation is concluded.
Banire’s letter is entitled: Offer to Step Aside as National Legal Adviser Pending Conclusion of Investigation of My Person by the EFCC. He copied President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN).
The former Lagos Commissioner for Transport and the Environment said he read an online publication on October 29 entitled: APC National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, Allegedly paid Federal Judge N500K.
He said he voluntarily reported to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to help clarify the issues.
“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’.
“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,” Banire said.
He said while he personally never appeared before the judge, two cases worth less than N2million in legal fees were handled by lawyers in his chambers.
Banire said: “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.
“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.”