Femi Fani-Kayode: Farida & EFCC, is this rule of law?
by Alaba Oyakeye.
It is exceedingly pertinent to clearly recognize the fact that the roles played by the anti-graft bodies in Nigeria over the years have significantly helped to sanitize our polity and ultimately to rid-off corrupt practices and financial crimes both in the public and private sectors, this new phase of paradigm shift Nigeria has extensively attracted international commendations, especially in the days of the pioneer Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
However, we cannot as a civilised democratic entity downplay the embarrassment the recent utterances and publications credited to the head of the anti graft agency of Nigeria, Hajia Farida Waziri over the purported list of over 50 top politicians and notable businessmen who have been considered unfit to participate in the 2011 polls in the country, which the commission had published on its website and sent to virtually all the dallies and online magazines in and outside Nigeria. Mrs Waziri is insisting that EFCC will spare no efforts to ensure that no political party in Nigeria fields any of the affected persons as a candidate. Although the Federal Government in its swift reaction to EFCC’s power-drunk activities and constitutional breach had already warned that the anti-graft’s supposed advisory list which includes some former state Governors, legislators (upper & lower houses), businessmen, bankers as well as company chief executives, will grossly undermine the country’s judicial and democratic process. It further urged Mrs Farida and the Commission to act within the confines of due process and to also desist from political statements capable of embarrassing it and unduly heating up the polity. This is the best thing any responsible and responsive government will do avoid anarchy and chaos in the interest of Nigerians.
Emerging facts ostensibly showed Farida Waziri over stepped the mark when she decided to take on the role of the Prosecution, Judge, jury and executioner, particularly in this situation where she has decided to disenfranchise political office seekers whether culpable of corrupt practices or not. May be she needs to be told that she has absolutely no legal right to dictate and or decide who is barred from contesting for public office. That is most certainly over and beyond her job description. It is only a fool that would trust the judgement and 'impartiality' of someone sitting at the head of the EFCC given the deplorable track record of the present incumbent occupier of that office. It is expected that some level of maturity and intellectual virtues should be displayed by Mrs Waziri and not what she presently reduce her office to. I definitely agree with the Attorney General on this issue.
If democracy must grow then we should have separation of powers (in principle and in fact) and all parties should be aware of the limits of their powers. Yes, the intentions of the EFCC could be seen to be great but we must remember people are innocent until proven guilty again we are no longer in military era where justice and rule of law are never considered or respected. No matter the power vested in the instrument that created e anti-graft body is not a court of law and it should not see itself as one. It should allow the judiciary to perform its constitutional responsibility. That is the only path of honour, Period. More importantly the onus should rely on the political parties who should ensure they only let people with integrity and only those who share the same principles with the party, are allowed to contest. Unfortunately our democracy both internally within the parties and externally in society still has quite a long way to go before maturity.
This brand new blunder committed by EFCC is seemingly embarrassing, treacherous, preposterous, and callous of any right thinking person under the guise of anti-graft to include the name of a distinguish and affable Nigerian (former Aviation Minister), Chief Femi Fani-Kayode in the EFCC’s advisory list, a list barring corrupt politicians from contesting for any elective position in Nigeria. It is equally appalling to see the name of former FCT Minister Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, despite the fact that a competent court of jurisdiction in Abuja had absolved him of all the charges levelled against him by EFCC. The name of Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, which also featured in the list, is also a shock to every right thinking Nigerians. (daughter of President Olusegun Obasanjo). The Courts should be allowed to dispense it statutory duties without any influence from the anti-graft operatives.
To those who are not privy to the issues which brought Chief Fani-Kayode to this lingering legal tussle with EFCC, here is the summary: After thorough investigation by EFCC over all the trumped up charges against Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, they later realized they are embarking on an effort in futility even as it was clear that all the charges impressed against him lack merits/substance and are all politically motivated, they shamefully made a U-turn by withdrawing all the charges, consequent to the abundant proves that there was no evidence that he had anything to do with the misappropriation of the aviation intervention fund.
As a matter of fact it was established clearly that he was the one that actually exposed the scam in the ministry. At the Senate Committee Public Hearing it was however discovered that 3 billion Naira meant for the payment of workers that were laid off in the Aviation ministry was not spent on the intended purpose but that had happened before Chief Femi Fani-Kayode became the Aviation Minister. Whilst Chief Femi Fani -Kayode was the Aviation Minister, 11 billion Naira was in the Ministry’s coffers being aviation intervention fund, and the money was judiciously spent by the Ministry under his esteem leadership. There was another N2 billion which was not part of the intervention fund but a soft loan from the Rivers State Government given directly to FAAN and specifically for the rehabilitation of the Runway of Port Harcourt airport. Out of this N2 billion, about N350million had been spent before Fani-Kayode came to the aviation ministry. The records show that out of the 11billion Naira, Fani-Kayode only released approximately 3.8billion Naira and left a balance of 7.2billion Naira in the Aviation Intervention Fund account. And out of the balance of the Rivers State Government loan, he only released N1.5billion.
Despite all that, these vicious and unrelenting breakers of law after 6 months went to Chief Femi Fani Kayode’s personal bank account and added up all the money that had been turned over in that account for a number of years, including his salary as a government minister. The total amount was approximately 250 million Naira and they then claimed that this was the money that he was "laundering" and they consequently charged him with "money laundering" in Dec. 2008. Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was Minister of Aviation for only 11 months and yet the money that they claimed he was "laundering" came in and out of his account over a period of years previous to the time that he even joined government.
Again EFCC never told us where this supposedly ‘dirty money’ which was allegedly being laundered came from and exactly what it was that made it ‘dirty’. They also claimed that they found 250 million in his account when they arrested him, which was just not true. This was an EFCC lie. What they found in his account at the time of his illegal arrest was actually 120,000 naira. The 250 million naira was an aggregate figure of total deposits of his personal finances into his account over a period of years which they then added up to reach 250 million. This was certainly not government money or stolen money and neither have the EFCC even alleged that this is so. In Fani-Kayode's case this is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that every single deposit that made up the aggregate figure and turnover of cash over those years that added up to the 250 million Naira came from legitimate sources, consultancy agreements and various businesses that Fani-Kayode had established over the years. He gave proof and evidence of all that during the course of the investigations to the EFCC but of course they were not interested in establishing the truth.
However, Justice Ramat Mohammed of a Federal High Court in Lagos, has last year (2009) ruled and rejected the inadmissibility of the computer printout of a statement of account, which the EFCC had tendered before his Court as evidence in the alleged money laundering case against the former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. This is not the first time a Court of law will reject the admissibility of computer printout of statement of account as evidence. A similar thing happened as far back in 1976 in the case of Yesufu vs. ACB Ltd (1976) 1 All NLR (Part 1) 264 @ 273 wherein the Supreme Court per Fatai-Williams, CJN (of blessed memory) upheld the submission of Chief F.R.A. Williams, CFR, SAN (of blessed memory).
Records have it that EFCC appealed this judgment and out of judicial miscarriage, it subsequently won the appeal in May 2010. Although this case is presently left to the hands of the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter. Meanwhile for clarity legal authorities all the way to the Supreme Court are very clear on this matter and have constantly reiterated the inadmissibility of computer generated bank statements and good reasons too. The Nigerian Evidence Act is very clear on this too, so I cannot understand how or why the Court of Appeal would or could have come to it's ridiculous conclusion that suddenly such unreliable evidence which can be subject to all sorts of mistakes, distortions and manipulations is now admissible in law. Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was never a fugitive, he was never convicted, and has never been indicted or found culpable of any corrupt or financial crimes by any Court of competent jurisdiction, whether in Nigeria or anywhere else. The above explanations abundantly prove that EFCC is only out for mischief aimed at misleading the public and distorting facts which is evidently against the tenets of rule of law.
In a bid to further put Mrs Farida and her Commission to caution and to remind her of her excesses, highhandedness, unguided statements/publication over her self-generated advisory list as the boss of the famous and esteemed organisation like EFCC which over the years had attracted local and international recognition; several members of the fourth estate of the realm have been recording their displeasure over this bizarre and barbaric incidence. One of them is Vanguard newspaper which published in its Thursday editorial, (28th day of Oct. 2010) titled ‘No, EFCC, No’ (http://www.vanguardngr.com/2010/10/no-efcc-no/). The organisation professionally set the record straight by advising the anti-graft body to act within the ambit of rule of law and the constitution of the land.
It is noteworthy to make it public and also for record that, despite the attempted disaffection, misconceptions, lies, rumours, and misleading information peddled around by EFCC and other political detractors, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has not and will never step down for anyone, or back out of the Osun State 2011 gubernatorial race. His exclusive interview with the award winning Nigerian newspaper (Thisday newspaper) effectively cleared all the grey linings orchestrated by the political quislings. (http://www.poten.com/NewsDetails.aspx?id=10734004, http://www.thisdayonline.info/nview.php?id=186087).
All doubting Thomas should know that Fani Kayode is waxing stronger in the race, very focused, visionary, determined and ultimately gaining support not just from the royal fathers, elites, artisans, students, youths and even the senior citizens of Osun State, but amazingly he has been gaining the support and loyalty of members of other opposition parties in the State with many of them who are massively decamping to PDP just for the fact that Fani Kayode is in the race. Moreover, his 50th birthday (October 16) which was celebrated some couple of weeks back speaks volume about these empirical facts. The good people of Osun State can no longer be hoodwinked or bamboozled by any sponsored publications with the vicious attempts to mudsling, disparage or to malign Chief Femi Fani-Kayode’s image. It would be recalled that in the recent past Fani-Kayode had meritoriously served Nigeria as a Special Adviser to the President and also as federal Minster in different portfolios, therefore his present aspiration to the number one seat of his home state is a good step in the right direction and there is no doubt absolutely that he is the choice of the people and the best man for the job, ordained by Almighty God to take Osun State to its promise land.
Alaba Oyakeye is the convener of ‘Vote No to Corrupt Nigerians’ an indigene of Atakunmosa West LG (Osu), in Osun State, Nigeria. http://bit.ly/cIJoIq.