Director General Obi/Datti Presidential Campaign Council of the Labour Party Dr Doyin Okupe was Monday sent to two-year jail by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Okupe, a former media aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, was found guilty in a N702million deal which was part of the alleged $2.1billion arms deal in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) then headed by Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd).
In her judgement, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu said it was established the former presidential aide accepted cash above the statutory threshold without recourse to a financial institution.
The media head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Wilson Uwujaren, said this in a statement Monday in Abuja.
“In a well-considered judgment, the trial court held that the EFCC successfully established its case against Okupe, that evidence before it established that the defendant had in the discharge of his official duties, accepted cash payments that were above the statutory threshold, without recourse to a financial institution.
“It was alleged that Okupe received funds from the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, which he could not account for. He was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment on counts 34 to 59.
“The charges are centred on accusations of receiving various sums ranging from N10million in different occasions from 2012 to 2015 from ONSA when he was Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan. The court, however, gave the defendant an option of N500, 000 fine on each of the counts,” the statement said.
Uwujaren further said: “He was however discharged on counts one to 33 which bordered on money laundering and criminal breach of trust. He was mandated to pay the fine before 4.30 pm or be committed to prison.”
This, the judge said, was because the prosecution failed to establish the charge of money laundering and criminal breach of trust and corruption against the NSA.
The EFCC had arraigned Okupe alongside his two companies: Value Trust Investments and Abrahams Telecoms on a 59-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal diversion of funds to the tune of N702 million only.
One of the charges Okupe faced is: “That you, Dr. Doyin Okupe, being the Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan from July 2012 to May 2015, and being the managing director, chief executive officer, and a signatory to the bank account of Abrahams Telecoms Ltd, on or about the 3rd October, 2014 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, directly took possession or control of the sum of N35 million, transferred to the account of Abrahams Telecoms Ltd from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria, purporting to be for special services when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity.”
He said Okupe had pleaded not guilty to the charges upon arraignment, setting the stage for his full trial. In the course of the trial, the EFCC called several witnesses and tendered documents which were admitted in evidence.
“After the prosecution closed its case, Okupe refused to open his defence. Instead, he made a no case submission, that the prosecution had not satisfied the requirement of proving its case beyond reasonable doubt and failed to prove that he acquired the money illegally as charged. This was subsequently dismissed by the court, which ordered him to open his defence.
“The convict called a number of witnesses in the course of his defence. One of the witnesses who testified as the fourth defence witness was Hon. Bamidele Salami, a member of the House of Representatives, who served as head of media in the office of the then senior special assistant on public affairs to President Jonathan.
“He had told the court on February 8, 2021 that “there were approximately 30 staff in different units of the office and the office was funded by the Presidency through the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA under Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd),” the commission said.
The spokesperson disclosed that funding in the sum of N10 million was provided on a monthly basis in cash to Doyin Okupe through an officer in ONSA.
“Bamidele also said N3 million was paid for a programme, ‘Insight’ on NTA, to correct the negative perception of the former President. He said it was untrue that the programme was aired “free of charge” as corporate social responsibility by the NTA.
“However, the defence witness’ evidence on the sponsorship of Insight on NTA contradicted the testimony of the first prosecution witness (PW1), Osas Azonabor, an operative of the EFCC, who had told the court “that no receipt was issued for the payment to NTA.
“However, a letter was written to NTA and investigations further revealed that the programme was aired free of charge as directed by the then Director General of NTA who said the programme was to be seen as the Corporate Social Responsibility of the NTA,” the anti-graft body said.
Okupe, the court said, violated the Money Laundering Act which provides that no individual or organization shall receive any sum above N5 million and N10 million respectively without passing through a financial institution.
According to Justice Ojuwku, the NSA was not a financial institution, adding that even if the president was said to have authorized the funds, he did not say that the money must be paid in cash in violation of the money laundering.
Consequently, the court averred: “I find the first defendant, Dr Doyin Okupe guilty in count 34, to 39.”
The said sum, according to Okupe, was expended on running the office, payment of staffs and image laundering of the former president and his administration.
The court, however, held that receiving such amounts in cash violated the Money Laundering Act.
Speaking after the conviction, his lawyer Mr. Francis Oronsaye, pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy on the grounds that the defendant was a first-time offender, a family man who is also advanced in age and having health challenges that he is currently treating in Nigeria and outside the country.
Citing Section 310 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Oronsaye urged the court to stand down the matter to enable him call witnesses that will attest to the good character of Okupe.
‘Victim of honest mistake’
Also speaking, another member of the legal team, Tolu Babaleye, assured the convict would meet the 4:30pm deadline for his bail.
He said: “Dr Doyin Okupe is a victim of honest mistake and circumstances. He was found not guilty in counts 1 to 37, which bordered on money laundering, fraud, corruption and misappropriation of monies he took from the office of NSA; But he had issues when it comes to counts 38 to 59, which provide that he was guilty of an offence of collecting money in excess of N5 million, which is a permissible threshold under the Money Laundering Act.
“The court has graciously listened to allocutus from him and based on the evidence of his good character given by impeccable Nigerians of the caliber of Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of Anambra State, Muhammad Idi Farouq, his wife and one of his sons, the court became persuaded that he deserves to be given mercy and sentenced him to two and a half years.
“The court said the sentences will run concurrently and an alternative that he should pay N500,000 each in each of the count for 26 count charges in which he was found guilty of collecting money in excess of N5 million.
“And the court has said that he has up 4:30 this afternoon to sort out himself by way of paying the fine, but if he can’t he will be taken to Kuje prison.
“I told EFCC officials that they should not harass him; he is already a convict. They should give him an opportunity to sort out himself just as the court has said.”
But the EFCC counsel, Ibrahim Audu, said: “It was corruption to pay money to collect money. Why do you want to accept cash payment, but you don’t want it to pass the federal institution? You don’t want it to be retrieved.”
However, a check by Blueprint at the court at about 6:00 p.m. showed that Okupe had paid the money.
Also, LP media officer, Diran Onifade, said Okupe had paid N13m fine to avoid going to jail.
Onifade who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone Monday night ahead of the party’s rally in Uyo, Akwa state capital Tuesday, said the lawyer told him he had met the bail condition.
“But I can confirm to you he is home now,” said the party’s image maker, adding that appealing the judgement is a personal decision.
I’m not demoralised – Obi
But the LP presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, said Okupe’s conviction won’t demoralise him.
He spoke at a parley with journalists at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Council Secretariat in Uyo Monday.
Obi said: “I am hearing about it (the conviction) just like you. I am still studying what is coming out of the court and everything. I believe in the rule of law. It is not going to demoralise me.
“Today, when I arrived Akwa Ibom somebody asked me why I haven’t been using my aircraft because it has been grounded and all that, and I said to him that nothing demoralises me.
“In my life, I have never stayed where they dropped me, otherwise, I would have been where they dropped me before. This election, if they like, let them do anything about people who are around me. I will get there.”
Obi said if elected president, he would work towards the realisation of the Ibaka Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom.
“My problem is how to create a future and make Nigeria a productive and not a consuming nation,” Obi said.
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