December 20, 2022
By Isaiah EKA
Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP) Presidential candidate, has said the conviction of his Campaign Organisation’s Director-General, Dr. Doyin Okupe, over alleged money laundering would not break his resolve to be Nigeria’s President.
Obi said this during interaction with journalists in Uyo at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Akwa Ibom State Council Secretariat on Monday.
The Labour Party presidential candidate said he was undaunted by the conviction and would continue with his campaign and allow the due process of law to take its course.
“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.
On the impression that he does not have political structure to win the presidential election, he said he was determined to dismantle the existing political structure in the country which encouraged corruption and spread poverty among Nigerians.
“The structure they have today is the structure we want to destroy. It is the structure of criminality. It is structure that produced 133 million people living in poverty
“It is the structure that produced 20 million out of school children. It is the structure that has made Nigeria surpass India in infant mortality. It is the structure that will destroy Nigeria and we want to destroy that structure,” he said.
The LP presidential candidate added that his priority would be how to secure a united Nigeria and pull people out of poverty.
He that said if elected president of the country come 2023, he would work towards the realisation of the Ibaka Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom.
He said, “my problem is how to create a future and make Nigeria a productive and not a consuming nation.”
Earlier in the day, Dr. Okupe, former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, had been convicted by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja and sentenced to spend two years in prison with the option of paying N500, 000 fine on each of the counts on which he was convicted.
The 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, ONSA, 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.
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.
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 N702,000,000 (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 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 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.
He 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 Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd)”.
He disclosed that funding in the sum of N10 million Naira was provided on a monthly basis in cash to Doyin Okupe through an officer in ONSA.
Bamidele further revealed that N3million 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.”