Femi Fani-Kayode Schemes For Soft-landing On Corruption Charges, Holds Closed-door Meeting with President Jonathan

In what is seen as a dramatic move to evade prosecution in many quarters, former Aviation Minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode met with President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday in Abuja.

Femi Fani-Koyode is one of the President’s strongest critics in the media and member of the opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

He had made every pro-Jonathan an enemy and had declared open war on them, particularly on the social media.
Recently, it was gathered that on Facebook, Fan-Kayode unfriended Comrade James Okwy Ezema, the Director of Information at Citizens Rights and Empowerment Advocacy Initiative (CREMA Initiative) for holding a different opinion on President Jonathan.

Details of the closed-door meeting held inside the President’s office in Abuja were sketchy Tuesday night.

It was said that Fani-Kayode is perfect his plans to return to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC).

A source said he wants to hide under the political permutations that APC to field a Muslim/Muslim ticket as its presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2015 general election.

Though the often outspoken and controversial politician has no commanding political following to sway elections in favour of a political party or candidate, analysts are of the opinion that the President will not let an opportunity to take a shot at the opposition pass by.

Speaking to newsmen at the end of the meeting with the President, Mr. Fani-Kayode said: “I cannot and I will not be associated with a situation whereby any group of people is promoting a religion above another.

“I think all of us have gone past the stage of religious politics in this country.

“We must treat the Muslim community with utmost respect and we must treat the Christian community in the same way and even the non-religious.”

On the timing of his visit, the former minister said there was nothing unusual about it.

“This is a Presidential Villa, the President is a President of Nigeria and every single person in this country that is a Nigerian is entitled to come here from time to time, when the doors are open to come and pay their respect to the wonderful people that are here.

“As a Nigerian, I have done that today
and I am delighted to be here,” the former minister told curious reporters.

He added that his criticisms of the Jonathan Administration were part of the beauty of democracy, saying he was not an enemy of the President.

Also speaking on the speculation that he may have come to perfect his plans to return to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Fani-Kayode said he would make his decision known at the appropriate time.

He added that his criticisms of the Jonathan Administration were part of the beauty of democracy, saying he was not an enemy of the President.

Also speaking on the speculation that he may have come to perfect his plans to return to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Fani-Kayode said he would make his decision known at the appropriate time.

He is presently standing trial for corruption and money laundering related offences.

The EFCC is accusing Mr. Fani-Kayode, who was also a former Minister of Culture and Tourism, of money laundering. The commission had amended its 47-count charge, totalling N230 million, to a 40\-count charge of N100 million.

According to the EFCC, one Mark Ndifreke, a former aide who is now at large, had deposited various amounts of money running into tens of millions into Mr. Fani-Kayode’s bank account while he was a serving minister.

Other aides such as Florence Salau, Ojo Agbor, Daniel Atogo, Supo Agbaje – all of whom are still at large – had also deposited millions of naira into the former minister’s bank account, the EFCC said.

The anti-graft agency also accused Mr. Fani-Kayode of using his wife, Regina, and his daughter, Remilekun, as a conduit to launder millions of naira.

Mr. Fani-Kayode’s trial has seen three judges and four re-arraignments since 2008 when he was first brought before Justice Ramat Mohammed on a 47 count of money laundering.

Following Mr. Mohammed’s transfer, in 2012, out of the Lagos Division, Justice Binta Nyako, took over the case. Mrs. Nyako was subsequently moved out of Lagos in 2013.

“This matter has been on for so long. I can’t take a date that is convenient for you, you have to take a date that is convenient for the court,” Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia told the prosecution counsel early March.

The trial had suffered several delays as both the defence and prosecution had filed a plethora of applications which had delayed actual trial.

In 2013, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia had barred the defence, led by Festus Keyamo, from prosecuting the former minister until a prosecution fiat from the Attorney General of the Federation was tendered before the court.

The judge’s decision was based on the defence team’s application seeking the prosecution to provide evidence that they got the nod from the Attorney General to prosecute Mr. Fani-Kayode.

Mr. Keyamo had reacted by seeking the transfer of the trial to another judge.

“The Supreme Court has said it again and again that it is bizarre when a lawyer appears before a court and the judge asks ‘where is your letter?” Mr. Keyamo had said in his letter to the Chief Judge seeking the transfer of the trial to a fresh judge.

He later produced the fiat, dated June 24, 2013, after the Chief Judge declined his request.

“We believe this is a ploy to perpetually keep the accused in court,” Olawale Akoni and Ifedayo Adedipe, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria and Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, had said.

In February, the judge ruled that Mr. Fani-Kayode be re-arraigned after she dismissed the defence’s application challenging the competency of the charges against their client.

On the day of his re-arraignment, Mr. Fani-Kayode’s lawyer raised another objection to the amended charges stating that they were “vague” since they did not disclose the person from whom the money was accepted.

The judge overruled the objection saying that it “lacked merit and should not have been raised in the first place.”

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