Mr. Fani-Kayode was charged in 2008
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, who is facing trial for money laundering, has attributed his ordeal to a smear campaign allegedly orchestrated by the federal government.
Mr. Fani-Kayode, who was also a former Culture and Tourism Minister, said that the campaign reached a crescendo after he quit the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, for the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“The truth is that for the last five 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 occasion and he has refused to be intimidated, cowered or silenced,” Mr. Fani-Kayode said in a statement issued on Tuesday by Kola Olapoju, his lawyer. “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.”
Mr. Fani-Kayode, a lawyer, was first arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 47-count of money laundering in 2008 before Justice Ramat Mohammed. In 2012, Mrs. Mohammed was transferred out of the Lagos division and the matter handed over to Justice Binta Nyako. In 2013, Mrs. Nyako was also transferred out of the division paving the way for Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia to take over the trial.
“Each time these same charges are presented he has had to be re-arraigned and he has had to take a fresh plea,” his lawyer lamented. “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.”
After he was re-arraigned before Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia in January, 2013, Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyers began to contest the fiat empowering the prosecution to handle the matter on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The defence insisted that the fiat singled out Festus Keyamo, the lead prosecution counsel, to appear before the court and not any other lawyer from his chambers. The judge ruled in the defence’s favour.
Last month, Mr. Keyamo appeared to lead the prosecution, but with an amended 40-count charge. Again, the defence raised objections, arguing that the charges were “vague” since the prosecution did not state whom their client received money from in the money laundering allegation. This time Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia overruled them, noting that it was immaterial to mention the source of the money. The judge fixed March 5 for Mr. Fani-Kayode’s re-arraignment.
“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,” Mr. Olapoju said.
Mr. Fani-Kayode further called on the media to always do the necessary research and to get their facts right in the reportage of his trial proceedings.
“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 seven 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 N230 million to N99 million.
“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 (Attorney-General) to grant a fiat for a prosecution that he and his predecessors in office were reluctant to do for five good years,” Mr. Olapoju said.