Festus Keyamo is one lawyer who barely needs any introduction in Nigeria. He is not unknown to both the government and the masses. His credentials as an activist make it the more so. Having had more than his fair share of controversies, the radical lawyer cum human rights crusader no longer shies away from them. And now as a Private Prosecutor with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Keyamo is again in the eye of the storm. Street Journal’s Publisher, WOLE ARISEKOLA and WOLE ADEJUMO were at the lawyer’s Anthony Village office. It was a no holds barred interview and Keyamo in his usual element proved to be the reporters’ delight he has always been. Among the many issues he touched were his relationship with Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC Chairman and why Ribadu does not have his sympathy, why he took up the new EFCC job as well as some of the cases of corruption being prosecuted by the EFCC like that of Senator Rashidi Ladoja, Chief Kenny Martins and many more as well as the end result he hopes to achieve.
Q: Can you please introduce yourself?
A: My name is Festus Keyamo and I am a legal practitioner, also a columnist. I write a column for the Sunday Sun.
Q: Some people see you as a radical, a human rights activist, but to some people, Keyamo is just like somebody who is looking for what he will eat, an opportunist. What do you think about this double perception about you?
A: It is one perception that they have of all other radicals, no difference. It does not deserve the dignity of a response. They have said the same thing about even frontline activists like Gani Fawehinmi and very senior activists beyond me and before me. It does not deserve the dignity of a response.
Q: Their position may not be unconnected with your new job as a private lawyer to the EFCC.
A:Other lawyers, activists before me have been consultants to the EFCC, senior activists have been consultants before me, under Ribadu and they said the same thing of them.
Q: The new EFCC Chairman is seen from another angle as not being clean.
A: Ribadu was seen from other angles as not being clean too because he covered up so many people.
Q: People are disturbed that a vocal critic of your stature has maintained stoic silence about the extensive acts of corruption and collusion with corrupt serving or former public officials, including those perpetrated by Mrs. Waziri and Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa.
A: Since assumption of office by Michael Aondoakaa as the Attorney General of the Federation and Mrs. Farida Waziri as the Chairperson of E.F.C.C, there have been insinuations and rumours about the corrupt activities of the duo. I will be the last to defend them; I will also be the last to crucify them over these allegations.((The reason is that I did not have documents to authenticate the facts. If I speak up every time I hear a rumour on corruption without documentation, I will soon be seen as a public nuisance rather than as an activist. All my previous crusades have been with documents. Some examples are: When I took on Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi in 1999, I presented certified copies of court records showing how he was charged for 419 and jumped bail.( When I took on the Bola Ige case, I presented certified affidavits, audiocassettes, visual cassettes, and hand-written statements of Fryo to the public, which led to the impeachment of Iyiola Omisore and his eventual trial. Even the recant by Fryo could not change the situation.(
When I took on the operators of the Police Equipment Fund, I presented a barrage of documents to law-enforcement agents and the public that led to their arrest and prosecution and the end of that scam.(
When I recently took on the House of Representatives, I presented documents to back up my facts that even a weak denial of those documents could not prevent the on-going investigation in that regard.((There are many more, but that has been my modus operandi. But in this case, apart from the non-existence of documents regarding these rumours of corrupt practices, I have been very careful in this case because it is the very people that have, at one time or the other either transferred some powers from Ribadu or replaced him in his previous office that have been branded as “corrupt”. I am sure if Jesus has replaced Ribadu, Jesus would have also been termed “corrupt”. The simple reason, I suspect is that, there may be a subtle campaign to make anyone coming after Ribadu fail in that office. But the office does not belong to Ribadu’s family, and that is not patriotism. In fact, I wonder what would have happened if Ribadu had stayed for eight years in that office when he would not be eligible for “re-appointment”. Maybe, his friends would have campaigned for amendment of the law for him to stay on for life. It is the Nigerian mentality of “only-me-must-succeed”, even when the so-called “success” is hyped beyond what it was by his friends in the media. ((These are just my suspicions. I do not have documents to back up my claim except for the refusal of Ribadu to come forward to give a proper account (not the three-page handover note to Lamorde) when invited to do so and the refusal to name 31 governors he alleged that the E.F.C.C had completed investigations against.((But despite these suspicious, I am still on the alert. Whenever, I see duly authenticated documents on corruption against either Waziri or Aondoakaa, I will speak up. I will not maintain a “stoic silence”.((
Q: But search your conscience, can you say I am not biased or one sided, if I were not a private lawyer to Waziri, I will criticize her?
A: I have continued to hold my position regarding many issues regarding this government and I have said so in my response. You have raised this same issue in your letter to me and I gave a comprehensive response. I stick and stand by that response. And it was not an emotional response, it was point for point. You don’t just say these are the allegations, you say this is one, two, three, four, five. You must itemize them. And I also threw the gauntlet down that the people who served the EFCC before activists, lawyers, and me too, frontline ones, did you write letters to them? When they were desecrating our constitution, promoting corruption, prosecuting people and turning a blind eye when Andy Uba was smuggling dollars into the USA and they were clearing him to run and disqualifying his opponent Ngige did you write letters? Come off it my brother.
Q: Are you trying to say there were no letters then?
A: What I mean is that there was double standard. If you want people accountable by one standard, you must also be prepared to hold yourself accountable by that standard. It is very simple, it is a simple mathematics. But in my own case, in my reply, I said despite all of these, I always pointed out the double standard first. But I am on the alert, any day you say ‘look o, these are documents’, you are giving me, duly authenticated, oh my God! Am I not in town over the House of Reps? Is it not part of this government?
Q: Let’s look at the pace at which the EFCC was going before and now.
A:What we need to do is to continue to encourage anti-corruption crusade not to pull it down because Ribadu has left there. It is not his father’s property. When they go wrong, criticize them, bring them back to track. When you see documents against them, confront them on them, if you hear rumours, avoid rumours. That is what you must continue to do.
Q: But do you believe that life without criticism is not worth living? Do you agree with me?
A: Yeah. Is that not what I am telling you? I said once you get duly authenticated documents, not rumours, documents. That has always been my trend in all my battles, bring them to my attention and let’s fight it together. Do you have any here for example, let’s start it.
Q: Are you saying if they give you such, you are going to follow it up?
A: Get me documents, if you have here, let us fight it together. Did I use EFCC money to build all of this, to pay all these staff? What are you talking? How much can EFCC pay me? (Laughs). You don’t know the quality of briefs I have here.
Q: Let’s look at it this way; Keyamo is now a consultant on legal matters to EFCC …
A: (Cuts in) Let me tell you this, I find it extremely funny and I laugh so much and I think I also congratulate myself when others find themselves in the same positions I find myself and questions are not raised but questions are raised with me. It also shows that perhaps with some credit, maybe I have worked myself to a position where people expect more from me. Because people who are even considered far bigger and more senior activists in the eyes of the public than me have been in the same position I find issues and myself were never raised.
Q:But do you know whether people are expecting more from you?
A: Maybe they are expecting more from me, but I am humbled by it because I thought they should expect more from those people who are more senior activists than myself when they found themselves in the same position as consultants to the EFCC and then corruption was happening galore. Bode George could not be arrested, Alao-Akala was called a thief, he could not be disqualified from contesting, Andy Uba was smuggling dollars here and there, he was being cleared to run by EFCC. They were arresting legislators for corruption and once they signed impeachment notices, there was no corruption against them. Nobody talked about all of these; in fact those people were clapping for them for this double standard and corruption going on.
Now people raised questions about me and I said look I thank my God for where I find myself because perhaps I have worked myself to a position where they expect more from me. And so, I will not run away from any searchlight that is beamed on my activities.
Q: Do you agree that these questions to you are not about rubbishing you? They are about people’s perception and what they expect of Festus Keyamo.
A: That is what I am saying. I am saying people who expect more from me and those “people” did not expect more from senior activists that means I am blessed. I am blessed because these same people saw them too (laughs).
Does it make you feel singled out?
No, no, it makes me happy. It gets me in the mood for dialogue. As far as I am concerned, there are only two areas of government where I can assist, even in a government that has negative perception. There are only two areas of that kind of government where even activists, all of them can assist, like they have been assisting the EFCC. All activists have been assisting the EFCC in prosecuting because one, it is better to leave the prosecution of corrupt persons in the hands of those who have track records, than to now leave their prosecution to those who have been a bundle of contradictions and corruption. It is better that way because in that case, we will just be going round the same circle. It is better, let the activists receive the slap, let them criticize them but it is safer because we are all concerned about corruption irrespective of the government in place. It is for our general good.
The second area is the area of electoral reforms and INEC itself. If I am given the opportunity to, and I think other activists too, I will want to serve in INEC. I will want to be in a position to determine elections because these are the critical areas where you can engineer things: the anti-corruption sector within government and the electoral sector. That is why you can see even senior activists like Olisa Agbakoba serve on the Electoral Reforms panel, Uwais and all of them because they can bring their ideas to bear. They even brought NGOs in. It is safer to allow those who have track records, like they even did under Ribadu. Maybe the success that Ribadu achieved so much was also because of their guidance, with all sense of respect, the level he achieved even though there were so many areas he left out. It was also because of their guidance. So it is safer on a comparative basis to allow the activists to help prosecute corrupt persons.
Q: I read something you wrote in a paper sometime ago that the election that brought in this incumbent government lacks credibility.
A: It is not only the credibility; it is Ribadu orchestrated the worst election in the history of Nigeria and it, why? Because the pre election stage was set by Ribadu, destroyed by Ribadu and Iwu was just the final nail on the day of the election to rig the election. It was Ribadu, Obasanjo and Iwu that destroyed our electoral system. Ribadu had busied himself compiling names of people who Obasanjo hated or did not hate, people who were not invited for questioning, and people who did not even know investigation was going on. He found time disqualifying them, listing their names up and down and leaving out people he actually called thieves and who people had seen stealing and mentioned the names before. That was just bastardization of the pre election system, then Iwu just came finally and destroyed the final Election Day and Obasanjo presided over all of these.
Q: But to everybody, you are still serving under the same government and it would be sad if your relationship with the EFCC becomes an excuse to shirk your responsibility as a self-avowed public conscience band commentator on matters of corruption, abuse of office and human rights violations.
A: No, not serving. Look, those activists too who served in Ribadu’s time were critical of Obasanjo’s regime. They were abusing him everyday. Like I called Yar’Adua’s regime illegitimate now, it is simple, we are prosecuting corrupt persons and you don’t see the analogy? There is no difference. What is happening now is a replica of what happened under Ribadu, that you could still prosecute corrupt persons even within a system you don’t like. It happened before. Let me say this, I am just a private prosecutor for the E.F.C.C, not an employee. My views cannot be impeded because of the assistance I give to that body, and it is an assignment I took up without first asking or negotiating for a kobo. It was patriotism simpliciter. Do not forget that I am also prosecuting the operators of the Police Equipment Fund for the Police free of charge. Since I took up the challenge of prosecuting suspected corrupt persons on behalf of E.F.C.C, I have continued to constructively criticize the Federal Government’s many anti-people policies. I have variously referred to the Yar’Adua’s regime as “illegitimate” because of the way the elections that heralded him was conducted, and of course orchestrated by Ribadu.
Q: Do you believe in the judicial system?
A: The judicial system has challenges and it is sharply divided between judges that are perceived to be corrupt and the ones that still hold their heads high. There is corruption within the judiciary; we will not run away from that fact.
Q: Let’s take the case of Atiku vs Yar’Adua and that of General Buhari at the Supreme Court, as a lawyer; do you think it was a fair judgment?
A: I respect the Supreme Court judgment; don’t forget I was part of the team against Yar’Adua. I was part of the Atiku’s team and I fought the case from day one to the last: from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. I can only disagree with some of their reasoning. But as the Supreme Court of Nigeria, in line with constitutional order, the Supreme Court judgment must not meet street expectations or popular expectations. I was personally disappointed because I was part of the Atiku team and I know the effort we put in that matter and I know the issue at stake. But in their wisdom, they held otherwise. I disagree with their reasoning: the majority reasoning. I agree with the reasoning of the minority, especially the dissenting judgment. I made my position known immediately the judgment was delivered, it was everywhere: online, clip stories, my position was quite known everywhere. I was very disappointed in the judgment but I respect it and defer to it as the highest court of the land.
Q:Let’s look at the PAN case; everybody was excited and happy to hear that somebody can take these people up because they are already being seen as monsters. But at the end of the day, they said most of the documents you presented were fake.
A: It is still subject to investigation. I have said it is a lie, so we are waiting for the investigation report. The ICPC, the EFCC, the National Security Agency (NSA), those are the three agencies involved in the investigation. And I will tell you this; you don’t just sit in your bedroom and say somebody forged documents. Go to the police, go and see whether you will not hang yourself. You say it on the pages of papers and go back to sleep.
Q: So you are sure of what you are saying.
A: It is not even only I first of all, before I came out, Newswatch had carried the story. Everybody saw it and they didn’t deny. When they were being boxed into a corner, then all of a sudden, they came out shouting, “hey, it is forged”. They had carried it nearly two months; they put the bromide of all the documents there. They are charlatans at the National Assembly.
Q:What is the future of the country if we have people like these at the top?
A: It is the electoral system that is why I said that is the only place I can serve and any anti-corruption agency. When you have an electoral system that is fraught with corruption, supervised by corrupt people and manipulated for their candidates, this is the kind of result you get. If those who were in positions during Obasanjo’s time allowed the rule of law to take place, allowed due process, allowed the electoral process to work effectively, we won’t find ourselves in this mess we found ourselves in. We won’t.
Q: Going down memory lane, in the Bola Ige assassination case, you did a wonderful job. But till today, the truth is not yet out. The persons accused are still working freely on the streets. What is your view about this and how do you feel?
A: I am not only sad; I am very disgusted with the system. Don’t forget that it was only Iyiola Omisore that was tried fully. He was impeached because of all I did. He was impeached, arrested and sent for trial. Now there were other suspects who were also arrested: Alani Omisore, his brother who the prime suspect, Andrew Olofu said he saw, that he came into that compound with a gun and he later recanted. He later changed his statement in court and said he didn’t want to adopt the statement again. Mrs. Atinuke Ige died that night, after that boy did that; she died of a heart attack.
Those other suspects, Fryo, Alani Omisore and others were not tried. The Oyo State Government entered a nolle prosequi and withdrew the charges. Why the press did not cry about that till today, I don’t know. Why the press did not make an issue out of that withdrawal for no reason when the PDP government of Ladoja just came in. When the government came in, the first thing the Attorney General did was to withdraw the charges against all those boys. Why that PDP government did that, why the press did not raise issues and follow it up is one of the complaints we have in the Nigerian society. At times the issues we expect the press to focus on, we don’t know what happens behind the scene and they just go quiet.
Q: When you started the Police Equipment Fund issue, Kenny Martins said ‘this young boy is being sponsored to destroy me’. What can you say about that, is it true?
A: We are not just making statements, peddling rumours; we presented hard facts, even to bank statements of illegal withdrawals from that fund. I got bank statements and this was the point I made earlier, and I make it without any reason to malign anybody, I fight with documents and facts. If you don’t, you will be caught in an embarrassing position because I am a lawyer not a journalist. A journalist can say I have discovered this in my investigative journalism, and I respect that. But that will not be admissible in court. The only thing that will be admissible is the hard fact. I am trained as a lawyer, and as a lawyer if I peddle rumours and I malign people, I will be disrobed as a lawyer. You know that, they can drag me to the NBA. That is a dishonourable act.
So if a lawyer speaks, he must have facts to back it up. I will not begin to go to town because somebody told me that this is the rumour about this person or this is the rumour about that person. And that was the same thing I did for the Police Equipment Fund. If it is true that I was sponsored as it were to destroy him, the security agency would not have found any substance in my complaint and he wouldn’t have been charged to court. As I am speaking to you he is facing various charges by the police, by the EFCC. Various security agencies are charging him to court because if you open any of his files, open one page you must see corruption, next page you will see stealing, next page you will see all sort.
Q: So we should assume that the Festus Keyamo we knew ten years ago is still the same Festus Keyamo now?
A: There is no reason why I should not be consistent.
Q: There are so many reasons why people are not being consistent.
A: Like what?
Q: Poverty, when they don’t have money.
A: Am I poor?
A: Am I greedy?
Q: So you are contented with what God has done for you?
A:What more do I want?
Q: And you are ready to fight corruption to any length?
A: You don’t know how people on power operate? You think I would not have been afraid normally that ah, if I take on people in government now, one person will call another person on phone, boy yen, e je a deal pelu boy yen. (let’s deal with that boy). They are the people in government, if I take on the House of Reps, they will call themselves and say ‘deal with this boy’, or don’t you know?
Yar’Adua shut down Channels Television, I came out smoking free of charge, they arrested Emmmanuel Asiwe, I came out free of charge, they arrested Jonathan Elendu, I came out smoking free of charge against this government. You mean that they will not call themselves? Attorney General appointed service chiefs, I am in court with him now, I openly criticized his position, I said it was pure abuse of power and I am in court because I have documents and facts and the law to back me up. I don’t act on rumours my brother. And I am in court with him. It is what I have been doing before. I was part of the Atiku team to the Supreme Court. Does that not alarm you? Part of Atiku’s team to the Supreme Court to unseat Yar’Adua. Haba!
If you say the elections that were conducted were fraught with fraud, stand on it, don’t change your mouth. If you criticized Ribadu while he was there and he is now back, stand your ground, this is what I have done. I wrote series of articles, I did not support him and because he is out today, I will now change mouth because I want to get support here. It is a consistent position, consistent, no shaking.
Look at that of Alamieyesegha, even though I am a Niger Delta man, when he was arrested, I praised Ribadu to high heavens for what he did. You know I supported Alamieyesegha’s impeachment and his eventual trial because I said I would not ethnicise corruption. Why? In that case, they found money in his room in London. As they found the dollars in his room, he now bolted away. Will I support that? He bolted away illegally to Nigeria and I will support that? All Niger Delta people called me that time, “Festus, what are you doing?’ And that time I was defending Asari Dokubo, ‘ah, we should present a united front oh, this is a Niger Delta struggle’. I said it is not a Niger Delta struggle, it is corruption. I will not ethnicise corruption. Just be consistent, that’s all.
Q:When you search your conscience, are you able to say I have done my best?
A:Did you see any security here? I am not afraid of anybody. I live a normal life like everybody. I can sleep twenty-four hours.
Q: To many, Asari Dokubo is not like Ken Saro Wiwa who fought for the people of Ogoni, they see Asari as someone fighting for his own pocket. Someone once said you made a joke on a flight that you said, “look at that white man, if it is in Niger Delta, he is worth N50 million”
A: Okay, they said it was a joke but I can’t remember saying anything like that.
Q: Even if it was a joke, it could mean you sanction the operations and kidnappings by the militants moreover you are Asari Dokubo’s lawyer.
A:I am talking of Asari that I defended.
Q: But Asari is the leader of the militants.
A: They kidnap people?
Q: Okay, who is kidnapping people in the Niger Delta?
A: Did you hear of any Niger Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force that kidnapped anybody? If there is one, let me know.
Q: Are you exonerating the Niger Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force from the kidnappings?
A: What I mean is I don’t have details. I am not exonerating them
Q:Do you agree with me that they do kidnap people in Niger Delta?
A: They do kidnap
Q: Who are they?
A: I am not a security agent, I don’t know.
Q: Are they not militants?
A: You mean I should know and be an accomplice?
Q: I think you are economizing the truth.
A: You are making comments now, not asking questions. As a journalist, you ask questions not make comments. Don’t superimpose your comments and bias the minds of readers. You said who is kidnapping? I said I have never been part of the security forces that went to arrest them. Who are these people kidnapping? Who are they?
A: The press branded them as militants, but who are they? Do we know them? That is the truth. Do we? Is there a mixture of Hausa boys there? Or of Ijaw boys or Urhobo boys? Who are they? Don’t forget that they kidnapped in Ibo land recently, they kidnapped Dora Akunyili’s brother in Enugu. To be honest with you whom are these people kidnapping? Be honest with yourself.
Q: In this country, if we can’t face the truth because of our ethnic background or…
A: (Cuts in) You can see that the kidnapping is coming from everywhere now. So whom are these people kidnapping? You say they are militants. Fine, if they are militants, are they part of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, which I defended? Because that is what started this question, I defended the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force leader, Asari Dokubo. Are they part of the kidnappers?
Q: What if the government comes out tomorrow to say these people are part of them, how are you going to feel?
A: You will now call Asari, is this your member? Like all the heinous crimes that were done under the guise of the OPC, Gani Adams and Fasehun came out denying most of the boys. But then it was fashionable in Yorubaland to do anything, it is OPC. Or were you not here?
Q: So what you are telling me now is that people kidnapping in the Niger Delta are not militants?
A: You will first of all identify who are the militants, and then you will see whether the kidnappers are part of these militants. If they are not part of these militants, that means they are faking as militants. They may be criminals, normal armed robbers.
Q: So people that are kidnapping now are criminals, you have branded them as criminals?
A: Kidnapping is not part of our struggle, it is criminal. To kidnap? An Ijaw boy or Ijaw girl, it is not part of our struggle. Why will you put kidnapping as part of our struggle? You now said they are militants. That is why I am asking you who are these people?
Q: Are you part of Asari Dokubo’s volunteer force?
A: No, I am not. I am just a lawyer to him.
Q: But do you believe in the Kaiama Declaration?
A: I do, totally and entirely.
Q: And you sympathize with the cause and the way they are going about it?
A: Totally, wholly and entirely. I may disagree with the kidnappings but I agree that when you push people to the wall, they should show genuine grievance. Genuine grievance aimed at restoring their rights and not the one aimed at stealing like in the case of kidnapping.
Q: The government labeled Asari as someone who committed treason. Will you say leading a volunteer force is the right way to go about the struggle?
A: He has come out of the creeks and they gave him pardon over that. That is the end of that story. What is he doing now?
Q: So if I go back to Ibadan and commit a lot of atrocities, destroy what belongs to the country…
A: What I am saying is that that chapter was closed when they granted him pardon. We are in the phase of what is he doing now that you object to?
Q: So he got away with that?
A:I defended him when they arrested him because his arrest was a breach of the pact they had. They said ‘disarm, we shall grant you pardon’. He disarmed and they arrested him. I said that is a breach of faith. I defended him.
Q: And all their utterances that they are ready to segregate from the rest of the country?
A: If you feel very angry, you have every right to say that, everybody has been saying that. Ibos have been saying that, the Yorubas have been saying that.
Q: But as a lawyer, do you know the meaning of that?
A: No, no, no, it is not treason to say I want to segregate. It is when you do it, when you put your intention into action that is treason.
Q: When someone destroys Federal Government’s property?
A: That means you don’t know the facts of Asari’s case. He was not charged for what he did in the creeks. He was granted pardon for that. It was the utterances he made when he was granted pardon expressing his disgust with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That was what he was charged for and I said you cannot charge somebody for expressing his frustration like every other person. He was charged for statements in Daily Independent, statement he made in Tribune, that was what he was charged for and they called it treason.
Q:Now that you are taking on the House of Reps, do you think the EFCC is doing enough to support you? Because in Europe, if you say this person is a thief, we have everything to support our claim, the government operatives will come on.
A: To the extent that they have started investigation, to that extent, I will have no complaint for now. To that extent that at least they have looked into my complaints. Without needing to sound nasty again, what my grouse was in the past was that I would write scores of petitions, I would be ignored. I see this thing happening, I write, ignored, Obasanjo Library, ignored, Andy Uba, I went to court, ignored, not even for them to say okay, we have seen your petition. Police Equipment Fund, I wrote more than ten petitions, they tore all of them to shreds.
Now I take up a cause and they said okay, we are ready, I should come and make a statement. Why won’t I say okay, let me give this a chance?
Q: Maybe they are doing that because you are now part of them?
A: No, no, no. When they took up the Police Equipment Fund, I was not part of them. To be honest. Kenny Martins was arrested around January- February; I was not part of them. So to be honest, one should feel elated. It was the moment Ribadu left office that they rounded up Kenny Martins and co.
Q: Now Ribadau is facing a lot of challenges, like his dismissal from the police. Can you stand up and defend him?
A: No, because I don’t believe in what he did. I have supported his dismissal, I have supported his demotion. I am not moving from that spot, lest the court says otherwise because this is the war of our enemies we are fighting. When Ribadu accused lawmakers in Ekiti, Bayelsa and Plateau States of gross corruption and arrested them at different times. After signing impeachment notices against their various governors at various times, that was the end of the allegations of corruption and abuse of office against them. In fact one of these lawyers who initially said he would defend the EFCC free of charge, later collected Six Million Naira from the EFCC under Ribadu. The case was lost by the EFCC at the Supreme Court. I am not aware the lawmakers were even charged to court. In Bayelsa State, one of them became the Deputy Governor and in Ekiti State one of them became the Acting Governor.(Yar’Adua was Ribadu’s candidate; he was the one that disqualified everybody to make sure Yar’Adua appeared. He destroyed Odili, which I supported of course because of the massive looting in Rivers State.
Q: But Odili has not been charged to court.
A: Because it was under Ribadu’s watch they went to get a court order. Was it under Farida’s watch? Ribadu was there when he should have arrested him the day he left office. They waited until a court order was gotten. Haba! They should have picked him up immediately. Leave matter.
Q: So what is happening is more than what we are seeing?
A: Ah, it is abracadabra.
Q: People are saying Ribadu’s dismissal did not follow due process. As a lawyer, you will have your opinion. Did it follow due process?
A: Due process was followed and I approve of it.
Q: If the same thing happens to Farida Waziri tomorrow?
A: I will go beyond that o. let me say it here for the first time. Because I fight with documents, if he did anything in office, like I said I am not accusing him of anything but I will investigate. Any underhand dealing, I will petition. I have petitioned before when he was in office over the sale of Russel Centre. Remember I wrote the petition against him when he was in office. So my position has been consistent. I wrote a petition to the Presidency that time to investigate him as EFCC Chairman over the shortage of N1 billion and his only defence was that his lawyer handled the sale. Haba! That it was Osakwe and co that handled the sale. And they didn’t come to report to you that after valuing it at N3.2 billion that they were going to reduce it to 2.3, you were not told? As EFCC Chairman that gave them the property to sell? After the person gave a deposit of N1 billion? Are we now fools in Nigeria? When did we become fools? When did we get to this low ebb? I wrote a petition. I am investigating his assets; I am investigating his declaration of assets. If he did not declare his assets I am going to petition because nobody will harass me out of my position. Even if the world is going the opposite direction, I will stand on that ground. That is what my conscience says I should do.
Q: Okay, if Farida finds herself in this kind of problem…
A: (Cuts in) I will petition her, as simple as that.
Q: You want us to believe that?
A: Give me documents now. Ribadu has been my friend before he was appointed EFCC Chairman. He didn’t tell you? We are friends, we became friends at Oputa Panel, he was defending the police then. That was when we met and became friends, long before he became EFCC Chairman. When he became EFCC Chairman, he called me during his dying days; he called me on phone and said I should please come to his office. This is the first time I am saying this in public and I said no, I am not coming. It was through a mutual friend, a lady who is a mutual friend of ours. And I said no.
Q: Maybe he thinks you are bitter.
A: No, my position was consistent and I said no.
Q: Most of the cases you are handling for the EFCC now, what are you expecting?
A: Convictions, jail. Nothing more than that. Road to jail. The only sadness I have is that unlike Ribadu’s tenure when they were not granting bail in the judiciary, which made it easier for them to prosecute quickly, now they are granting bail. Of course we are opposing bail now but the judiciary is thinking otherwise. You know I opposed bail for Fani Kayode, I sent him to eat Christmas rice in prison.
Q: Some see it that Obasanjo’s men are being singled out and dealt with.
A: Are you not happy about that? That they are dealing with Obasanjo’s men?
Q: When you people leave office, what if another person come and does the same thing?
A: That is nemesis; nemesis should be catching all of them. It is our enemies’ war; we shouldn’t be fighting our enemies’ war. That is why I feel bad when radicals begin to attack themselves. These are our enemies fighting, let them fight themselves. Yar’Adua was Ribadu’s candidate, himself and El-Rufai were the ones that piloted him. What happened between them? Are we going to be fighting it for them? God punish all of them.
Q: Another issue is that of Oyo State, recently the EFCC opposed the taking over of Ladoja’s assets by the Oyo State Government. Why is this happening?
A: We want to use it to prosecute now. It is only natural to use it to prosecute. They are exhibits, after that you give it to them.
Q: What are we expecting from that case?
A: Prosecution now, we are prosecuting. It is jail, road to jail (laughs). What else? If you are prosecuting somebody, you want him to go home? It is road to jail.
Q: And there won’t be any compromise?
A: Ah, now you are prosecuting somebody already. You have gathered your witnesses, you are opposing the release of passport, you oppose bail, you oppose everything. What else are you looking for?
Q: How long do you think this case will last?
A: The problem is with the judiciary. I cannot guarantee that, I want to be honest with you because they are on bail. If they were not on bail, like Nwude, like Alamieyesegha, all of them were plea bargain. Nobody went to trial, none. None of the cases under Ribadu went to trial, none, because they deny bail, they are strengthening his hands and these people came and plea-bargained because they were dying in prison. When they saw Maurice Ibekwe died, all of them started entering plea bargain saying they won’t die here oh. Don’t forget that the new proposals that the EFCC has just brought to the National Assembly is for the establishment of special courts, to take it away from all these regular courts, so we’ll have special courts, special judges.
Q: But how sure are we that they won’t be corrupt?
A: What is your solution other than that? You have to try them; you can’t bring them out and shoot them.
Q: My own opinion is that they should not be released on bail.
A: It’s the judges, we are opposing bail. The Nigerian media should start hammering the judges. As a lawyer, I cannot ask questions. The press should ask questions, that is why you are the Fourth Estate of the realm. It is very important to ask questions because some of us are already frustrated.
Q: As an activist, when you get a conviction, how does it make you feel?
A: Excited of course, there is nothing that makes you happier than that. And it is a feather to your cap; don’t forget that it adds to your resume. All we want are resumes, we are all struggling to increase our activist credentials and it is part of your credentials to say I prosecuted for the EFCC and convicted four corrupt Governors. That is what I want to achieve with the EFCC. There is nothing, I hope you know how the civil service pays. It is insulting, when you take me away from all my practice and go to Abuja and be prosecuting. It is pittance and when they said I should come and assist, I am putting it on record, not one Naira. At a point they were disturbed, not one Naira. I didn’t negotiate how much would you pay me? I was sweating; I said where are my former petitions? I started digging them out: Odili, Andy Uba, I started digging them out that yes; all these things will come alive now. I now wrote a series in my column, I said ‘Memo to Farida Waziri part 1, part 2, and part 3’. I was publishing all my petitions repeating them in my column. I listed all these cases, I said take them up if you want to succeed. Don’t be selective. And she started sweeping all of them to court one by one.
Q: Even if the charges are frivolous, just to say let me satisfy my lawyer and take this fellow to court?
A: You can’t count like a forty count charge and say it is frivolous. Forty counts? Your own integrity as a lawyer will be at stake because the judge will say it in his judgment that you brought an innocent man to court. The judge will say so now because the Day of Judgment will come. I hope you know that.
Q: If I get you right now, we should be expecting something better from all these people that you are prosecuting?
A: What else should you expect? You must expect convictions. The only thing I fear and to be honest about it is delay. There is a case at the Court of Appeal that we are waiting for now that will determine once and for all how these things will go. Where you appeal and you ask for stay of proceedings at the lower court, the EFCC Act says that ‘no appeal shall act as a stay of proceedings‘. In other words, when you are appealing, trial will go on and they will convict you. But now a lawyer is saying that section is unconstitutional. So the Court of Appeal is to determine now and the judgment will come in a few months from now whether that section of the EFCC Act is unconstitutional or not. But once they say it is constitutional, that no stay, because what we are doing is that the tactics is in the appeal. When you start a charge, they will bring one frivolous application; the charge is defective, of course the court will normally rule against them because most of the charges are effective. They will say appeal; ask for stay while we are coming to determine the charge. The appeal from High Court to Court of Appeal takes at least three or four years. Before then, witnesses’ die, many things would have happened.
Q: What you are telling us now is that it is not that you have a personal hatred for Ribadu because he didn’t hire you as a consultant then?
A: No, I didn’t apply.
Q: Why didn’t you?
A: I did not believe in what Ribadu was doing, the selective nature of his crusade. And cases he did well, to show that there was no hatred, like that of Alamieyesegha, I praised him to high heavens.
Q: But the new Chairman is doing the same now.
A: Do you have any proven case?
Q: What about Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State? He was being investigated and when his election was voided, he ought to be arrested but they covered him up.
A: Let me tell you this, because of the new principle of the rule of law, you know in those days you can arrest and keep for one month while investigation goes on. Now, the new principle is this, you investigate, get your facts correctly, invite him over, and charge him to court. You initially call the person, make your statements, and let him go. Let him be reporting. When your investigation is complete, you take witnesses statements, bring him in, keep him overnight and charge him to court. That is the rule of law because the constitution says you can’t keep anybody more than 24 hours.
Q: But Jonathan Elendu spent like two weeks there?
A: That was why I rose up for him, I did not keep quiet.
Q: Channels Television was shut without due process and here we are talking of due process and the rule of law.
A: That was why I rose up. The day after Channels Television was closed down, I and the Attorney General of the Federation were at an EFCC forum and in public, and I called him to order over Channels Television. I told him ‘you say you are pursuing rule of law, what about Channels Television? ’ In public, Justice Onnoghen of the Supreme Court was there, Olisa Agbakoba was there, Farida Waziri was there. In fact we were on the high table together. Then he started justifying, trying to give excuses, I said it is wrong. I said is this rule of law? You charged Leadership Newspaper to court, for what? I am the one defending their Editor, free of charge.
And let me say this, you know perception at times is different from reality. Within our ranks it can become so bad that instead of us working together, we peddle rumours among ourselves. It is very bad, even among activists. The problem happened even during the June 12 crisis when major activists who were our leaders then could not even work together. All of them were forming different platforms to promote their ego. I was an insider, so I know what I am talking about. It is even happening up till now when instead of encouraging ourselves, we peddle rumours about ourselves and they are different from reality and then we say Keyamo is this, Keyamo is that. Most of them are borne out of petty jealousy, petty rivalry which is not healthy for us. And because of that, people lash out to you that “this Keyamo self”, and when you come close to the person you will discover that he is different. It is unfortunate when it happens. One prominent activist went to the EFCC a few weeks ago and began to run me down at the EFCC. He said “what are you doing with Keyamo here?” He could not hide it again, he was so bitter. He went to the EFCC and they called me and said look at what your fellow lawyer has come here to do. It is unfortunate.
Q: There is this petition against Donald Duke, written by his kinsmen. I don’t know if you have seen it.
A: Somebody told me about it, I have been anxious to see it. I am interested, not that I am making any comments now but I am interested.