Following news reports yesterday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has rearriaged the former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode on corrution charges, the minister released a statement, signed by his lawyers seeking to clarify the facts of his five-year legal tussle with the EFCC. Read the statement in its entirety below.
The Federal High Court has granted an application made by the EFCC to amend their charges and has ordered that Chief Femi Fani-Kayode should take a plea to those charges and be re-arraigned on March 5th 2014. Chief Fani-Kayode has absolute confidence in the Nigerian judiciary, is more than ready to take his plea and will continue to present a vigorous defence to what are essentially baseless, malicious and politically-motivated charges which he has been fighting for the last five years.
Due to some inaccurate media reports that have been drawn to our attention it is important to make the following clarifications about the history of the case and the sequence of events. This is for the record and for the sake of history and posterity. Contrary to reports filed by some newspapers and particularly the News Agency of Nigeria on the 11th February 2014, the charges filed against Chief Fani-Kayode did not commence at the Federal High Court in Lagos before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia last year but rather on December 22nd 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed at the Federal High Court in Lagos. The charges that were filed at that time are exactly the same charges that have been filed ever since then and that have been filed again today. The only difference now is that 7 counts from the original 47 counts have now been dropped making the number 40 as opposed to 47.
The fact of the matter is that Chief Fani-Kayode has been arraigned no less than 4 times with the same 47 count charges before 3 different judges in the last 5 years. Those judges are Justice Ramat Mohammed, Justice Binta Nyako and now Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia.
Each time these same charges are presented he has had to be re-arraigned and he has had to take a fresh plea. This has been onerous, harrowing and vexatious to the spirit but Chief Fani-Kayode, being a law-abiding citizen who has done everything possible to co-operate with the courts and who has nothing but the highest level of respect for the judiciary has continued to weather the storm and go through the legal processes and he has never publicly complained, written or spoken about his travails in court.
This is because he believes in due process and, being a lawyer himself, he respects the courts and accepts the fact that matters that are sub-judice should not be discussed. It is however important that the media get the facts right about the proceedings and what has transpired in court and where they get those facts wrong we reserve the right to clarify the position and set the record straight. It is also important to note that Chief Fani-Kayode was also arraigned in July 2008 in an Abuja Magistrate Court for the alleged misappropriation of 19.5 billion naira of the Aviation Intervention Fund. The prosecutor in that matter was Sir Steven Odiase of the EFCC. Those charges were later dropped by the EFCC for want of evidence and when the EFCC discovered that the crime took place before Chief Fani-Kayode even became Minister of Aviation. When one adds that to the other four identical money-laundering charges and arraignments that he has been subjected to this means that Chief Fani-Kayode has been arraigned no less than 5 times on various charges in the last five years. After the Intervention Fund charges were withdrawn in August 2008 he was arraigned 4 months later with a 47 count money laundering charge in which it was alleged that he laundered 230 million naira.
The prosecutor in that new matter was Mr. Festus Keyamo and he has been prosecuting it ever since. As stated earlier Chief Fani-Kayode has been re-arraigned with those same 47 count money-laundering charges no less than 4 times in the last 5 years. The charges for which he will be re-arraigned on March 5 are not fresh charges and are nothing new. They are exactly the same old money laundering charges that the prosecution filed in 2008 except for the fact that 7 counts have been removed and the charges have been reduced to 40 counts as opposed to 47 and the fact that the amount of money alleged to have been laundered has been reduced from 230 million naira to 99 million naira. It is also important to take note of the fact that even though this matter has been prosecuted by Mr. Festus Keyamo since 2008, he did not obtain a fiat to prosecute the case as is required by law until June 2013 from the Attorney General of the Federation. It ought to be noted that it was only after Chief Fani-Kayode left the PDP and joined the APC in May 2013 that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice saw fit to grant Keyamo a fiat to prosecute the case.
We leave it to the public to make their own deductions about this curious and sudden desire by the A-G to grant a fiat for a prosecution that he and his predecessors in office were reluctant to do for five good years. We also urge the media to do the necessary research and get their facts right when reporting this matter because the public has a right to know the truth and to get the full picture. Justice and fairness demands no less than this, The truth is that for the last 5 years Chief Fani-Kayode has been subjected to the most hideous and vicious persecution by the Federal Government simply due to his political beliefs and his outspoken views yet he has courageously risen to the occassion and he has refused to be intimidated, cowered or silenced. This is despite the fact that the Federal Government, through their incessant and relentless persecution, has sought to make life as uncomfortable for him as possible, to smear his good name, to strip him of his dignity and to diminish his status. Despite these challenges Chief Fani-Kayode has consistently stated his innocence and he has reiterated his confidence in the Nigerian Judiciary and his faith in God to vindicate him. He looks forward to taking his plea next month and being arraigned, albeit for the fifth time in the last five years, and he hopes that this matter will be concluded at the soonest so that he can get his life back.
SIGNED- Barrister Kola Olapoju, for and on behalf of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.