The declaration by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), that it will challenge the ruling of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobiain of the Federal High Court, Lagos which discharged and acquitted Chief Femi Fani-Kayode of the N100 money laundering charges at appellate court has elicited mixed reactions.

To some analysts, EFCC should not allow Fani-Kayode escape justice if it is certain that he committed the crime. “Yes, it is in order for the EFCC to pursue the case to the appellate court of the law in order to stop him from getting away with his crime. The appeal court becomes a testing ground for the anti-graft agency to furnish the court further evidence with which it hopes to convict the accused,” Barrister Joe Nwokedi said.

But Comrade Debo Adeniran, a lawyer and Executive Chairman of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) thinks that EFCC should not pursue the case at the appellate court unless it is well equipped with enough evidence to be able to establish conviction on the case. “Though we have not seen the content of the judgment, it is obvious that the prosecutor was not able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and that has to do with the deficiencies we are talking about. So, until the EFCC is sufficiently empowered to dig deeper to come up with strong evidence and witnesses to secure conviction, it will not make desired progress in its anti-graft war,” he said.

Barrister Chinedu Akpa, a tough-talkling Lagos lawyer, also advised EFCC against pursuing the case further. He described it as further waste of tax-payers’ money and valuable time. “They (the EFCC) should not bother appealing the verdict. New evidence will not be supplied at the appeal. The case they have so far is too weak to secure conviction. They should not waste tax payers’ money any further,” he said. According to him, “part of the mark of a good prosecutor is recognizing the possible outcome of your efforts”.

Dr. Baba Niyi, a medical doctor agrees with Akpa. To him, appealing the judgment will be a veritable waste of time and resources as the EFCC does not seem to  have enough evidence to get conviction in the first instance.

The controversial verdict which sparked off wild celebration among the friends and associates of the former Aviation Minister has been widely viewed as another indication of poor performance by the anti-graft agency.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia had argued in her ruling that EFCC failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an offence had been committed by the accused under Section 15(1) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act (2004). “It is apparent that the prosecution’s case is feeble and has failed to establish that the accused person paid or accepted cash deposits exceeding the authorised limit and did not do so through a financial institution,” the judge ruled.

Fani-Kayode also painted a picture of repeated bids by the anti-corruption agency to convict him of various corruption charges without success, describing his latest triumph against EFCC as an act of God.  Hear him: “Initially, I was accused of stealing N19.5bn of public funds when I was Minister of Aviation. It was thrown out by the courts. Then I was accused of stealing N6.5bn. It was thrown out by the courts. Then I was accused of laundering N200m. It was thrown out by the courts.

“Then I was accused of laundering N99m. It was thrown out by the courts. Finally, I was accused of laundering N1m and N1.1m respectively, and today, both of these charges have also been thrown out by the courts,” he said.

Fani-Kayode who was elated by his acquittal announced that he has changed his name to Olukayode to appreciate what God done to him through the ruling. “As a mark of honour and respect for the Lord and as an everlasting testimony of my love for and dedication to him, I wish to make it known to the Nigerian public that as from today my name will be changed. It will no longer be David Oluwafemi Fani-Kayode but instead, it shall be David Oluwafemi Olukayode. Olukayode means “the Lord has brought me joy” and today he has done precisely that,” he said.

By Olisemeka Obeche


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