The Impressive Story Of The WARRI Born Lawyer
Festus Keyamo is a popular Lagos Lawyer. He is also a radical lawyer and a very principled one for that matter. Over the last 2 decades or so he has dominated the legal landscape like a colossus. He is fiery and radical in his approach to issues. He is always on the side of the oppressed. That is why his chambers is usually filled up with clients who seek his legal intervention at all times. That he was made a SAN a few days back did not come to many as a big surprise. They think he not only deserves it, they believe he has worked to earn it.
FESTUS EGWAREWA ADENIYI KEYAMO, SAN, FCI Arb (UK), lawyer, fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, (UK), social crusader, critic and columnist was elevated on July 6, 2017, as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) along with 29 other distinguished colleagues and was inaugurated as such on September 18, 2017 at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Why many people are so happy for Keyamo is because of his relentless efforts to confront injustice via the law. He has a rich pedigree. Having been born in Ughelli, Delta State of Nigeria on Wednesday, January 21, 1970 by a father who hails from Uvwie L.G.A, near Warri, in Delta State and a mother from Yewa South L.G.A in Ogun State. He is the third child and first son in a family of seven children. Festus Keyamo attended Oharisi (Model) Primary School, Ughelli, 1975 to 1981, Government College, Ughelli, 1981 to 1986 and proceeded to his Higher School Certificate (HSC) course in the same school. Before he completed his HSC course, he gained admission through JAMB in 1988 into Bendel State University, (now Ambrose Alli University (AAU)) Ekpoma, in Edo State, and obtained his LL.B degree (Second Class Upper) in 1992. He was called to the Nigerian Bar on December 15,1993 setting the stage for a colourful career in law. Much later, Festus Keyamo proceeded to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in the United Kingdom where he qualified as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).
LEGAL CAREER AND ACTIVISM
He started his legal practice in Gani Fawehinmi Chambers in Lagos at the height of the agitation for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 election. Even as a young lawyer, he was on the front row of legal activism with Chief Gani Fawehinmi representing icons like Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chief Frank Kokori and Ken Saro Wiwa as well as the duo of Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Anthony Enahoro who were arrested in 1994 and other NADECO leaders. These challenging responsibilities helped to build Keyamo’s confidence in trenchant advocacy emerging with the award of BEST LAWYER IN Gani Fawehinmi Chambers in March, 1994.
He left Gani Fawehinmi Chambers in 1995, had a brief stint in a partnership and then established his own law firm, Festus Keyamo Chambers, which has since grown rapidly with three offices in Lagos, Abuja and Warri and liaison offices in many states with over 23 lawyers and more than 30 para-legal staff.
Festus Keyamo is one of the private prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. In that capacity, he has prosecuted some Politically Exposed Persons on behalf of the Commission. He is still pressing on with Appeals in respect of the cases that have gone against him. As such the last has not been heard in respect of those cases. He also secured the conviction of Chief Bode George and five others at the High Court and Court of Appeal, before it was overturned by the Supreme Court.A few years ago, he went to court to challenge the power of the Nigerian President to unilaterally appoint Service Chiefs without the approval of the National Assembly. In a landmark judgment, the court agreed with him and declared the appointments of the nation’s Service Chiefs without the concurrence of the National Assembly as null and void.
In 2014, he won the case of the former Deputy Governor of Adamawa State, Bala James Nggilari, who was said to have resigned, but was later sworn-in as Governor when Mr. Keyamo argued that his “resignation” was unconstitutional and therefore he ought to have been sworn in as substantive Governor upon the impeachment of the Governor, Murtala Nyako.
He has also handled several controversial and landmark cases. He was counsel to the leader of the Niger-Delta Peoples’ Volunteer Force, Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari in his trial for treasonable felony, lead counsel in the treason trial of the leader of the Movement For The Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and other MASSOB leaders. He secured the freedom of both separatist leaders from prolonged prison custody. He played a prominent role in unraveling the prime suspect and other suspects in the brutal murder of Elder Statesman, Chief Bola Ige.
Mr. Keyamo also has a rich history of social and legal activism. In 1994, he teamed up with his late boss, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and other pro-democracy activists to campaign against military rule, and he suffered several arrests and detentions as a result.
Sometime in 2009, he prompted a probe of the leadership of the House of Representatives over alleged profligacy and mismanagement of public funds in the purchase of 380 units of 407 Peugeot Cars. His crusade for accountability by the Legislators led to the eventual investigation, arrest and trial of the House Leadership. The case is still at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
Whilst working with Chief Gani Fawehinmi, he teamed up with him to establish the National Conscience Party which was originally designed to challenge military rule. He was the first Northern Co-ordinator of the Movement.
In 1997, he formed the Youth Against Misguided Youths that mobilized thousands of youths to oppose the self-succession bid of General Sani Abacha.
Keyamo’s brush with the authorities has been audacious. He has been detained several times in prisons and cells across Nigeria on account of his crusades for justice, human rights and against corruption.This also led to his facing several Charges in Courts that were all dismissed.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
A man of amazing gusto and dogged spirit, his honours include, Best Single Advocate of Nigeria Law Students, (Taslim Elias Moot Trial Competition) 1992; Best Lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi Chambers (MARCH, 1994); Honorary Alumni of various Students’ Associations; Activist of the year (2001) by the Students Union, University of Jos; Listed in the New Who is Who in Nigeria, 2003; and nominated for the World Medal of Honour, 2003, by the American Biographical institute, in 2005. He was conferred with the chieftaincy titles of Ogba-uri of Ogor Kingdom (Strong man of the law) 2005 and Omorokaro of Uvwie Kingdom (The child who leads the way) 2011 in Delta State but prefers to be called ‘Mr.’
He was once a weekly columnist with The Sun Newspapers. He is an ardent fan of Arsenal Football Club of England and Warri Wolves FC of Delta State.
Since he was made SAN a lot of encomium has been showered on him. Senator Chris Ngige, the Minister for Labour and Employment has commended him. “Every area of life has its own Zenith only attained by a few and it is worthy and befitting that you are one such kind,” he wrote… “And your hard work has truly paid off. Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, the President of the Nigerian Football Federation also commended him. “Achieving the status of a SAN at your young age is definitely a no mean feat, and fully confirms the quality, substance and solidity of your advocacy, which the NFF and the entire Nigerian Football family can wholeheartedly attest to. Lagos lawyer, Taiwo E. Taiwo, SAN also congratulated him. So also Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the President of Dangote Group. He wrote: This conferment is richly deserved and it is a befitting crown in your outstanding career as a legal luminary in Nigeria, which span over 2 decades. You are a fearless advocate of the common man, a dogged human rights activist and above all, a brilliant lawyer, who has helped uphold. Oyegun, the National Chairman of APC described him as an advocate who has been industrious and stellar in his appearances in court. “You have also used your legal knowledge and skills to serve and advance the interest of the less endowed”.
Lagos lawyer, Kemi Pinhero (SAN) described him as “an astute, diligent and highly industrious advocate who is well grounded in law.” Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) also commended him praising his humility, integrity and commitment to the ideals of the legal profession. Wale Akoni (SAN) a brilliant Lawyer wrote: “ You have stood stead fastly on the side of truth and justice. You have remained a fighter for the down trodden…” Chief Chris Uche (SAN) also wrote: “I have known you, and crossed swords with you in court, a great and fearless legal warrior. “Radical Lagos Lawyer Femi Falana wrote: “Since our is a legal conservative profession, the conferment has been unduly delayed because of the radical posture of Mr. Keyamo.”
“Notwithstanding the delay, the award has come at last.” I am particularly delighted that Festus has joined the few radical lawyers in the inner bar… The masses of our people are in dire need of vibrant and dynamic advocates like Festus to take up their cases against principalities and reactionary forces that have subjected them to eternal agony and frustration. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) a brilliant legal mind described him as a dogged advocate of the Fawehinmi School. A lawyer who is not known to stand in the boson of timid and timorous advocates.
Dele Adesina (SAN), past General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association wrote… Not a few believe that your conferment was overdue. I believe so too… Festus Keyamo is a thoroughbred lawyer. A quintessential advocate. Festus does not wait for life to happen. He makes life happen. You had the luck which some of us didn’t’ have and that is the opportunity of a direct mentorship by Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN)..”
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) described him as a highly respected advocate who has cut a niche for himself as a brilliant, research-oriented, matured, calm and respectful legal practitioner… His knowledge of the Law is deep and profound, while his advocacy is very enchanting…” Asiwaju A. Awolowo (SAN) and Chief Mrs. Funmilayo Awolowo (SAN) and Chief Mrs. Funmilayo Awolowo (SAN) wrote: “In every generation, God in his infinite mercy produces genius or persons who are thrillers and exceptionally gifted to change their generation… Festus is one young man who has shown uncommon courage, learning and doggedness in defense of the defenseless and used the law to affect positively Nigeria’s legal environment.
Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, also congratulated him. Hon. Justice R.P.I Bozimo Administrator of the National Judicial Institute congratulated him. “This is an eloquent testimony of your unequalled contributions to our noble profession and it is a title richly deserved.”
He also got an accolade from Hon. Justice S.B Belgore during a court case in 2011. He wrote: “Who is this prosecutor we are talking about? He is Mr. Festus Keyamo…
He is a legal practitioner of some considerable experience… His activities from the affidavit evidence in court shows that he tends to be a social critic of relentless dispositions. And if I may use Mr. Oyetibo (SAN)’s word, he is a crusader… a social-political and economic crusader”.