In a tweet, former Aviation Minister, Mr. Fani-Kayode is saying he was not arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but was invited to answer questions.
“Just arrived at the George Hotel for dinner. I was never arrested by the EFCC.
“I was invited & I flew down to Lagos to see them. I arrived in their office at 2.00 pm & left at 8.30 pm. I was granted bail on self-recognition. They were very polite & professional. Thanks be to God,” the tweet reads.
Recall that the Commission opened investigation of Fani-Kayode on allegations bordering on forgery before a Federal High Court, Lagos.
He was questioned, according to reports, by the Lagos EFCC office to answer questions on forgery of hospital documents to deceive the court handling the case against him on money-laundering allegations with a view to stalling hearing.
According to The ICIR learnt that Fani-Kayode might well be deploying a contrived method between him and some medical personnel on the medical excuses to enable him evade trial.
The EFCC, after receiving the defendant’s latest letter, observed the trend Fani-Kayode’s letters had taken in getting adjournments and decided to take a hard look at the development.
The agency observed all the letters were supposedly issued from the Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja, except one issued from the Federal Staff Hospital, Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja.
The letters were signed by different doctors, with the last one in October stating that the “patient (Fani-Kayode) has been diagnosed by one Dr. S. A. Tobechukwu” and signed by him.
The agency wrote to the Kubwa General Hospital on October 12, 2021 seeking authenticity of the letter. The hospital replied the next day, October 13, 2021, debunking Fani-Kayode’s claim and declaring there was no Doctor Tobechukwu in its employment and that, in fact, none of the names of the ‘doctors’ who purportedly issued the five letters existed in the hospital’s records.
The hospital also disclosed that no Femi Fani-Kayode had ever been diagnosed or treated as a patient at the hospital. The letterhead on the paper that Fani-Kayode used for his letters, the hospital stated, was fake and did not bear its reference number, just as the format of the patient’s number that he used did not tally with the format in the hospital’s database.
Consequent upon that finding, the EFCC wrote to Fani-Kayode on November 4, 2021, inviting him to report at its Lagos office on November 10, 2021, for a chat.
Fani-Kayode responded to the EFCC letter on November 9, 2021, stating he would be unable to honour the invitation because he would be appearing before an Abuja court on Tuesday, November 16, 2021, in a criminal case, and would need to prepare for the case with his lawyers. He requested that the agency shift the date to November 17 or 18, 2021.
But he did not show up on the newly appointed day. Instead, he again said he would honour the invitation on November 24, 2021, and should be allowed to appear at the Abuja office instead of the Lagos office of the EFCC. But the agency promptly rejected his request to appear at the Abuja office rather than the Lagos office as the money laundering case against him that had elicited the invitation to him was being heard at a Federal High
Court, Lagos, and not in Abuja.
The EFCC had on June 28, 2016, arraigned Fani-Kayode; Nenadi Usman, who was the Minister of State for Finance during the former president Goodluck Jonathan administration; Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimentions Nig. Ltd. before Justice Muhammed Aikawa on a 17-count charge of the N4.6 billion money laundering trial.
The defendants were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015, shortly before Jonathan left office in May 2015 following his defeat to President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election. Fani-Kayode, who was the Director of Media and Publicity in the Jonathan government and a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in September this year).
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts and were granted bail.
In the charge, Fani-Kayode alone was accused of making payments to Paste Poster Co. of No. 125, Lewis Street, Lagos, above the maximum amount allowed by law. He was also said, in counts 15-17, together with one Olubode Oke, who is at large, to have made cash payments of about N130 million, in excess of the amount allowed by
The EFCC alleged in counts 1 to 7 of the charge that the defendants unlawfully retained a sum of over N3.8 billion “they should have known formed part of proceeds of stealing and corruption.”
They were also alleged in counts 8 to 14 to have unlawfully used a sum of over N970 million, “which they reasonably ought to have known was part of corruption money.”
But the trial has suffered many adjournments, mainly due to Fani-Kayode’s request for adjournment on medical grounds.
According to the court’s records, Fani-Kayode had written to the court seeking adjournment on February 1, 2018; May 20, 2019; November 24, 2020; March 21, 2021, and October 9, 2021.
At the last hearing on October 13, 2021, Bilikisu Buhari, who had announced an appearance for the prosecution, told the court that the EFCC had received Fani-Kayode’s letter on October 11, 2021, stating a doctor had given him bed rest.
Buhari said letters from the defendant had become the fashion whenever he wanted to avoid a court appearance.
“Whenever he wants to avoid court, this is the type of letter we get,” she said.
Justice Daniel Osaigor, who had been assigned the case after Aikawa was transferred out of the Lagos jurisdiction of the court, also expressed his dissatisfaction with the former aviation minister’s absence in court and his numerous medical excuses.
Osaigor said he had examined the court file on the case and noted that the defendant had sought adjournment on five occasions on virtually the same medical grounds.
The judge then fined Fani-Kayode a sum of N200,000, to be paid before the next adjournment date or he would revoke the bail the court had granted him, saying, “the recurring medical excuse has been a pattern that slows this trial.”
* Fani-Kayode blames medical doctor for alleged forgery
The ICIR contacted Fani-Kayode over the forgery allegation raised by the EFCC.
Fani-Kayode sent his spokesperson, who identified herself as Gloria Brown, to respond to the allegations at the Abuja head office of The ICIR.
Brown, who also identified herself as Fani-Kayode’s official spokesperson, said the former aviation minister did not forge medical reports as alleged by the anti-graft commission.
Instead, she blamed the alleged forgery on a medical doctor, whom she claimed signed medical reports he issued to Fani-Kayode with different names.
Brown confirmed that ‘Doctor Usman’ and ‘Doctor Tobechukwu’ are the medical doctors’ names on various medical reports signed and submitted to the court.
In an interview with The ICIR, she said, “What happened is he (Fani-Kayode) has a doctor who comes to treat him at home on private practice. Within five years that this case has been on, he has been going to court about seven to nine times in a year, and he only missed for five times and each time, it was basically on health issues that were beyond his control. Usually, this doctor comes to treat him and then goes ahead to produce the medical certificate from his hospital.
“Where the issue of the forged certificate is coming from is what we can’t really place our hands on at the moment. There was no forged medical certificate that he obtained – a doctor in that same hospital obtained the medical certificate.”
But Fani-Kayode’s spokesperson refused to disclose the medical doctor’s real name.
“I will not want to disclose the name of the doctor because the investigation is ongoing,” she said.
She insisted that the doctor’s real name was in two earlier medical reports that he issued to Fani-Kayode.
“We cannot place our hands on why he started using a different name in the last three medical reports. If anybody should answer the question, it is the doctor; he has to explain why he had to use a different name to produce those medical reports.”
Questioned further, Brown noted that although Fani-Kayode was the beneficiary of the medical reports, “it was the doctor that produced it with a different name and sent it to the lawyer”.
Brown alleged that conspiracy was involved in the matter and suggested that the doctor was being used to frame up the former minister.
Asked if Fani-Kayode’s team got in touch with the medical doctor to seek explanations for allegedly issuing the medical reports with different names, she said, “Having known that investigations were going on, we didn’t bother ourselves to do that anymore.”
However, Fani-Kayode’s spokesperson refused to speak on camera when The ICIR requested that the interview be recorded on video.
Brown initially agreed to participate in a video interview but suddenly declined when the session was about to commence.
▪︎ Main report by THE ICIR