By Paul Ivagba
For those who have been following the case between Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since year 2008, they would technically appreciate the level of impunity, judicial
somersault and highhandedness, down-play of the rule of law and gross injustice which was freely displayed by the anti-graft agent, EFCC and its counsel Mr Festus Keyamo. This case and several other high profile cases in Nigeriahave posed lots of worries on concerned Nigerians forcing some of us to lose confidence in the judicial system, because of the ways and manner Fani-Kayode’s alleged money laundering case was handled, a scenario that is purely contrary to the principles of fairness and justice.
Now we have to say a big ‘thank you’ once again to the human rights watch report on EFCC in August this year (2011). It was stated in the report that the biggest problem facing the fight against corruption in Nigeria is its political system, which inherently rewards corruption. "Too often, corruption is a prerequisite for success in Nigeria's warped political process," says the report titled, ‘Corruption on Trial? The Record of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.' In writing the report, HRW analysed EFCC's records since inception, examined court record in major corruption cases, interviewed EFCC's current and former leaders, other anticorruption agency officials, members of the National Assembly and judiciary, Central Bank officials, prosecutors and defense lawyers, foreign diplomats and donor agency officials, and civil society leaders.
The report was simply objective, very fair and firm and I hope those at the helm of affairs will take the report as a challenge to do much more. The report actually indicted the EFCC chairman Mrs Farida Waziri and also the presidency (for interference) and judiciary was equally not left out. The truth is that corruption is so entrenched in this country, from top to bottom, and it will take a patriotic ‘dictator’ to cleanse the country. Considering the magnitude of the problem, some pessimists have posited that only a patriotic military dictator could have given us quick results. Unfortunately for Nigeria, the country has been so unlucky in terms military dictators. The military dictators that came with glimpse of hope to clean up the system (Gen. Tunde Idiagbon and Mohammadu Buhari) did not last. However, since military rule is presently not an option, judging from our past, we have to continue to push the civilian government to do more against corruption. Recently a human rights activist in India went on hunger strike pushing the government over there to pass more stringent laws against corruption. We need more genuine agitations, more advocacies, more of this reports and tougher laws against corruption. But this must be done within the confines of the rule of law and convincing evidence which are only tenable in the court of competent jurisdiction; these are simply the legitimate tools that can help to pursue fight against corruption not by engaging in miscarriage of justice.
Those who alleged that the current leadership of EFCC is defective in its statutory roles and performance may not be far from the truth in view of the mess we consistently experience in the country. That being said, the bulk stops on Mr President’s table; the President appointed her, he supervises her, I understand he must also approve some high-profile arrest/prosecution as the report indicated, and so what effect has been his promise of fighting corruption, which convinced me to vote for him during the last election? I found it so disheartening that Lamido Sanusi would be toying with the banking sector, throwing hundreds of Nigerians into labour market where one can only buy unemployment; denying private investors their investment in "his rescued banks" (in broad day light) by insisting that only his favoured/preferred core investors buy these banks even after being run down by his-appointed management, instead of these local investors/Nigerian shareholders who have toiled all these years in building these banks to be allowed to recapitalize their banks in line with their Memorandum and Article of Association. I agree the shareholders were there when some of the erstwhile board members were abusing processes, but even at that the shareholders are risk takers and have repeatedly requested to be allowed to recapitalize their banks since they are willing and capable to do that as required by law, but Sanusi has adamantly refused to do this, this should be a matter for another day.
Meanwhile, on Chief Fani-Kayode’s prolonged legal tussle, it is no longer news that EFCC and its counsel would just want to keep him (Fani-Kayode) busy with this case even as they lack supporting evidence or concrete proves to prosecute him, yet, they still engage in doing hatchet job in the media with the simple reason of ridiculing this innocent man. It is most ridiculous and unfortunate that even in this modern age EFCC and its lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, would be distorting facts in respect of the alleged money laundering case preferred against Chief Femi Fani-Kayode at the Federal High Court inLagos. Keyamo, in a letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, erroneously claimed that Fani-Kayode and his lawyers attempted to choose a judge to hear the case, he did not only write but also extended that to the pages of newspapers and online magazines about a matter that is still in court. I thought as a lawyer his profession could have thought him what subjudice is, in the practice of law over cases that are pending in the court of law and awaiting judicial determination. We all know Justice Mohammed had presided over the matter until he was transferred to theEnugu division of the FHC. The development prompted the CJ to assign the case file to Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako. Shortly after the matter was assigned to Justice Murtala-Nyako, Fani-Kayode wrote a letter through his lawyer, Chief Ladi Williams to the CJ asking that the court should take cognisance of the ruling of the Appeal court which was delivered on May 27, 2010. He added that the matter is a criminal matter and should be heard quickly. (For details about this over-publicized case please read the story in the link: http://www.pointblanknews.com/Articles/artopn2799.html)
However, in reaction to this unfortunate act, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode’s legal counsel Barrister Dele Martins professionally and in a most balanced and reasonable order reacted to Festus Keyamo’s childish, unprofessional and misleading report over this ‘subjudcial’ matters, so that records are appropriately set straight. Barrister Dele Martins said:
‘‘A report in some newspapers suggesting that our client Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has sought to "appoint his own judge" in his case with the EFCC has just been brought to our attention. This report is malicious, false and misleading. The position is simply that our client has asked the Federal High Court to take notice of the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which was delivered on 27 May 2010, in which the that court ruled that the matter should go back to the original trial judge for a continuation of the case and not for the matter to start de novo with a new judge.
‘‘It is the Court of Appeal that gave this ruling and made this decision and not our client. We have absolutely no interest in choosing the trial judge and neither do we have the power to do so. Our position as canvassed before the Federal High Court is simply that the former trial judge should continue with the case as opposed to the whole matter starting de novo because the Court of Appeal has ruled that this should be the case. We also believe that criminal matters should be dispensed with as quickly as possible as the maxim is that justice delayed is justice denied.
‘‘It would be most unfair to our client for a matter which is part heard, in which witnesses have been called and which has been going on for three years to start all over again with a new judge when the original judge is still in service and when the Court of Appeal has said this should not be so. We urge the press to please seek clarification before publishing stories that paint our client in a bad light. We have tremendous confidence in the judicial system, in the Federal High Court and in all our judges and the assertion that Chief Fani-Kayode has in any way sought to "appoint his own judge" in this matter is not only untrue but it is also childish and ridiculous.’’
In a definite term, this is a matter which in the end will settle itself in favour of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; moreover those who cherish the primary and dispassionate ideals of legal system where justice and fairness are practiced need not be dismayed over this matter. The blackmailing nature or the slanderous methods of EFCC over this issue is really unthinkable and vicious, but they have obviously met their waterloo. Proverbs 26:23-28 speaks well of those in this category and I hope EFCC and its paid agents would learn to retrace their steps and make amends: ‘‘Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart. Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling’’. God is on the side of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and his exoneration on this case is firmly assured.