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Forgery: Keyamo, Martins battle over power to prosecute

By Ise-Oluwa Ige
There was a mild drama, yesterday, at an Abuja High Court sitting at Gwagwalada when a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, attempted to prosecute Lagos businessman, Chief Kenny Martins, over alleged forgery of government documents without tendering a fiat issued him by the Federal Government to do so.

Keyamo had refused to tender before the court the fiat allegedly issued him by the Attorney-General of the Federation for the prosecution.

By virtue of Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution, only the Attorney-General of the Federation has the powers to prosecute federal criminal offences.

A private lawyer could only do the prosecution for him on the sole condition that such counsel had been issued a fiat by the chief law officer of the Federation.

The fiat must also be shown to court or and displayed when the authourity to prosecute as in the instant case is in question.

The drama on the issue of fiat started yesterday when the accused persons -Martins and three others, said they would not be parties to the court’s proceedings except they were first shown the government’s fiat issued Keyamo to prosecute them.

But Keyamo told the court that the accused persons had no right to demand his fiat.

He said he would prosecute the alleged forgery case without showing them the fiat.

But when progress was to be made in the case, the accused persons in the alternative asked Keyamo to show the fiat to Justice  Nwada Balami before they would surrender themselves for trial.

The lawyer refused bluntly to show or produce any fiat and asked the court to allow him commence  the trial.

Counsel to the accused persons, Chief Johnny Ucheaga, however, raised objection to the commencement of the trial without  public display of government’s fiat to Keyamo to prove the authenticity  of his  claim.

Ucheaga insisted that it was against the law for Keyamo to claim possessing government fiat to prosecute Nigerian citizens without showing  the accused persons or even  the court the  instrument of prosecution.

The defence lawyer asked the court to strike out the criminal charge Keyamo brought against the people until he formally tendered the purported fiat in his possession.

The counsel argued that Keyamo was not the AGF and not the persons recognised by the constitution to initiate a criminal process against any citizen unless he was  genuinely  in prosecution of fiat.

Ucheaga told Justice  Balami that Keyamo had been restrained twice  by courts in Abuja from prosecuting the accused persons because of his clear interest in the matter.

The counsel further informed the court that the petition which brought the purported crime and charge was authored by Keyamo and hence, Keyamo was not in position to prosecute the case so as not to be the accuser and the prosecutor at the same time.

Meanwhile, Justice  Balami has fixed  ruling  in the case for 4 June to determine whether Keyamo could prosecute without displaying a fiat.


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