FESTUS KEYAMO, SAN, FCIArb(UK).
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
FESTUS EGWAREWA ADENIYI KEYAMO, SAN, FCIArb(UK), the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment is a lawyer, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, (UK), social crusader, critic and columnist. Prior to his being seconded to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, he had a brief stint at the Ministry of Niger Delta where he was also the Minister of State.
Festus Keyamo was elevated as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on July 6, 2017, and was inaugurated as such on September 18, 2017 at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Mr. Keyamo was the Director of Strategic Communications (Official Spokesperson) during President Buhari’s 2019 Presidential Campaign.
He was 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. 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.’
In 2017, he was awarded the Global Human Rights Award by the United States Global Leadership Council in Washington for his efforts over the years in respect of protection and promotion of human rights and the crusade for accountable governments in Nigeria. He will also be receiving the award of Defender of Press Freedom Award on May 5, 2018 from the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
Recently, he was appointed as a member of the Board of the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC). The NDIC is a parastatal under the Ministry of Finance. The Corporation is charged with protecting the Nigerian banking system from instability occasioned by runs and loss of depositors’ confidence.
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.