It is no longer news that Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ruled that the former Special Assistant to the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe has no criminal or money laundering case to answer.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu on Monday ruled and thrown into the dustbin the 33 counts charges of criminal breach of trust and money laundering allegations filed against Doyin Okupe, who is the current Director-general of Labour Party presidential Campaign Council that has Peter Obi as the presidential candidate for the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
The Court however ruled that count 34 to 59 which questioned the authority of Doyin Okupe to accept or receive security operative expenses in cash up to the tune of 10 million naira monthly committed an offence.
The Court did not say Doyin Okupe stole the money. The Court did not say the money was not used to address security challenges in the country.
The Court only said, the method, the Office of the National Security Adviser, headed by Colonel Sambo Dasuki made the payment to the office of the Special Assistant on Public Affairs to Mr President led by Doyin Okupe was wrong and did not follow the normal conventional system prescribed by law. The Court frowned at the physical cash payment of 10 million naira monthly to office headed by Doyin Okupe when the normal threshold was 5 million naira maximum or such higher transactions supposed to go through financial institution.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu judgement only addressed the case of the receiver or one leg aspect of the case and failed to address the case of the giver or the other leg aspect of the case. This made the judgement biased. Unfair. Non objective. Misleading. Unprofessional. Injustice. Intimidating. Abuse of judicial powers. A threat to National Security. Undermining or limiting the powers of the President on issues of National Security.
We believe, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu judgement did not also put into consideration the function and the sensitivity of the Office of the National Security Adviser who the occupant can even contract a criminal, terrorist in order to disorganize or neutralize any criminal plan, that can endangered the stability of the country. Even when it was very clear that the office of the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs was a security infrastructure or an agent to the Office of the National Security Adviser. In doing this, the National Security Adviser may not be able to disburse the money through the conventional way as security matter or Public safety, or averting imminent war in a country is above any law or not limited by any law. It’s an intelligent spending and it’s accountability is based on trust on the President.
For the avoidance of doubts, witnesses attested before the court that the 10 million naira cash monthly security operative expenses were released to mount media and other Public warfront against enemies of the state who were castigating the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to cause civil unrest and disobedience that could have caused instability in the country.
Details of the court ruling and witnesses attestations as reported by the Press Unit of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday are presented thus:
Doyin Okupe, former senior special assistant on public affairs to Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, and cieftain of the Labour party is to spend two years in prison following his conviction today, December 19, 2022 by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja.
In a well-considered judgment, the trial court held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, 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 10 million naira 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 500, 000 naira fine on each of the counts.
He was mandated to pay the fine before 4.30 pm or be committed to prison.
He was however discharged on counts one to 33 which bordered on money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission 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 702,000,000 (Seven Hundred and Two Million Naira only) .
One of the charges Okupe is facing 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 Limited, 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 35 million naira, transferred to the account of Abrahams Telecoms Limited from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser 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 had pleaded not guilty to the charges upon arraignment, setting the stage for his full trail. 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 Honourable 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 Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retired)”.
He disclosed that funding in the sum of 10 million Naira was provided on a monthly basis in cash to Doyin Okupe through an officer in ONSA.
Bamidele further revealed that 3 million naira 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.”
Like EFCC asked for receipt for the payment of 3 million naira monthly to NTA out of the 10 million naira cash received from ONSA.
We believe that EFCC and Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu should understand that communication or media spending is miscellaneous; aimed to build goodwill or sustain relationship and may not or cannot be treated in the conventional method like a man goes to a super market to buy a product and he’s receipted for the payment.
Doyin Okupe in this case as a Public Relations Consultant employed by the Government to help organize special programmes in order to address issues of national security may not pay for advertising space in NTA but he’s expected to spend money in buying, for instance, drinks or giving out money in replacement for people or NTA personnel who may have assisted him in organizing the special programme.
If Doyin Okupe gave money out as transportation to support journalists, invited guests for the special programme or NTA personnel who assisted in one way or the other to make the special programme a success, does EFCC also expect Doyin Okupe to demand receipts from the people for such goodwill spending.
We believe Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu judgement should not be praised and accepted because anybody can be a victim of any judicial recklessness and irrational judgement.
It’s Doyin Okupe today, you might be the one twomorow.