FRIDAY OLOKOR writes about the recent travails of former Labor Party presidential campaign manager Dr. Doyin Okupe, who resigned after a money laundering conviction.

In Literature, the heroes, most of the time, end in tragedy, due to their defects.

As the central character in the classical sense, the hero engages in dangerous adventures or wars, feats and feats of unprecedented courage and bravery. He possesses extraordinary mental faculties and physical abilities.

The recent money laundering case and conviction of Dr. Doyin Okupe, former special assistant (media and publicity) to former president Goodluck Jonathan, who, on Monday, December 19, 2022, opened a new chapter in the bad columns of the press.

Following his conviction, albeit with the option of a fine on money laundering charges, Okupe, who was Director General of the Labor Party’s Presidential Campaign Council, was found guilty of receiving more than N200 million in cash from a former Adviser. of National Security, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retired) and therefore sentenced to two years in prison by Judge Ijeoma Ojuwku of a Federal High Court in Abuja with the option of a fine of N500,000 for each of the 26 charges for which he was found guilty.

However, he had resigned as CEO of the LP-PCC due to concerns that it would hurt the chances of the Labor Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.

When handing down her sentence, the judge held that Okupe, who is the first defendant in the lawsuit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for violating the Money Laundering Law, had until 4:30 pm that day to pay the choice of fine, totaling N13 million on all charges for which he was found guilty, or be sent to Kuje Correctional Facility. But he paid the money that night and escaped imprisonment.

In sentencing Okupe, Judge Ojukwu considered the clemency requests of the convict’s wife, Omolola Okupe, and his son, Adesunkanmi Okupe, as well as the alocutus of his lawyer.

According to the judge, the Money Laundering Law establishes that no individual or organization will receive a sum greater than N5 million and N10 million, respectively, without going through a financial institution.

For Okupe, the judge held that “there is no evidence that the money has gone through a financial institution.”

How it all began

Okupe, then leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, was arrested by the EFCC on December 12, 2018, but was released on administrative bail. He was later arrested again on January 11, 2019. The commission later explained that Okupe was being charged with 59 counts of corruption and would be arraigned before Judge Ojukwu.

The prosecution’s lawyer, Ibrahim Audu, had introduced his sixth and final witness, Shuaibu Salisu, a former director of Administration and Finance at the Office of the National Security Adviser, who works with the National Intelligence Agency.

Salisu told the court that “sometime in 2012, Okupe came to the NSA office and after their discussion, I was ordered to make a payment of 50 million naira to him.”

After a few months of serious legal fireworks, the EFCC closed the criminal case against Okupe, accused of laundering N702 million, in 2019. When the case recently surfaced again on December 19, 2022, any fortune teller who would have predicted the conviction de Okupe would have been labeled a false prophet since neither he nor his disciples had a premonition of what was coming.

The judge said it was not a financial institution and even if then-President Jonathan was said to have authorized the funds, he did not say the money had to be paid in cash in violation of the Money Laundering Act.

As a result, the court found the former SSA guilty on counts 34, 35, 36, and 59, but found him not guilty on counts 1 through 33 because the prosecution was unable to prove the charge of money laundering, breach of trust, and corruption. against the NSA.

In counts 34 to 59, for which Okupe was convicted, he was accused of receiving various sums of money ranging from Naira 10 million on different occasions between 2012 and 2015, when he was SSA to President Jonathan. Said sums, according to him, were spent on the operation of the office, the payment of the staff and the laundering of the image of the former president and his administration.

However, the court ruled that receiving such sums in cash violated the Money Laundering Act.

Shortly after his conviction, Okupe’s attorney, Francis Oronsaye, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy, citing the defendant’s status as a first-time offender and family man who is also elderly and has health problems that you are currently dealing with. in Nigeria and outside the country.

Oronsaye, citing Section 310 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, urged the court to stay the proceedings so that he could call witnesses to attest to Okupe’s good character, which the court granted. This is in addition to pleas for mercy from Okupe’s wife and son.

divided opinions

However, since his conviction, opinions have been divided. According to some analysts, the conviction is a dangerous sign that those desperate to form the next government in 2023 are also violating existing laws governing monetary policy.

So if before coming to power they are violating the guidelines on monetary policy, they are most likely to be reckless if they win the election and the implementation of financial and monetary policy is handed over to them to manage.

While some believed that Okupe was a victim of politics, others said that he deserved to take on the music in line with the determination of the regime of president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (ret.), to fight corruption to a stop in what should be. a battle without retreat, without surrender. Others said Okupe’s conviction means no one is above the law.

‘Okupe is not a thief’

However, Peter Obi’s Support Network exonerated him saying: “Okupe is not a thief.”

POSN spokesman Onwuasoanya Jones said the conviction had provided the paid and unpaid spokespersons for some of Nigeria’s most cunning criminals and corrupt politicians, currently seeking Nigeria’s highest post, a new opportunity to try to dismantle Peter Obi’s iron reputation as one of Nigeria’s leaders. more credible, honest and incorruptible politicians.

He said: “Doyin Okupe’s crime was not that he diverted funds destined for any project or that he stole the money that he was given to carry out any task for the Federal Government. He was convicted of the same crime that almost all Nigerian businessmen commit every day. Anyone carrying out a transaction greater than N150,000 in cash is guilty of money laundering because under CBN’s cashless policy, which was introduced by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as CBN Governor, you should not have to carry money in excess of N150 ,000. But we all do that all the time.

“That is the exact reason why Doyin was convicted. His crime was to collect more than the specified amount of cash instead of passing it through the banks. As a result, I disagree with those who portray Doyin as a common thief or corrupt politician. As far as this particular sentence is concerned, Doyin is simply a criminal and not a criminal. He is like someone who violated traffic lights and was fined for it.”

A similar opinion was shared by the President of the Center for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, who believed that Doyin Okupe was actually convicted not of fraud but of money laundering, as he accepted more than the money threshold that should be accepted in cash. without going through financial institutions. However, he admitted that Okupe’s offense “is an act of dishonesty, because there has been a law, a policy, that certain amounts of money should not be taken in cash, and he violated that law.”

‘Dishonest and corrupt’

Adeniran added: “It is an act of dishonesty, which is corruption. But it’s not so much about grand corruption or what you call wholesale corruption. Basically, it may not affect its director’s (Peter Obi) chances that significantly.”

But Kunle Adegoke (SAN) shares a slightly different take on the matter, saying the punishment was not as light as some critics believed. When you look at this case, I think that the crime of money laundering does not mean that the person stole the money. The money can be delivered to an individual but the means of transport violates the provisions of the law by which the penalty is exercised.

“So I think the punishment is enough and that it is meant to deter others. And the fact that such a public figure is being convicted says a lot about his character and integrity. The implication is that he has become an ex-convict since the time of his conviction, denied certain legal rights. So, I think it’s enough in this circumstance,” he said.

For the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress in the 2019 elections, Omoyele Sowore, Nigerians were the most defrauded by the sanction imposed by the court on Okupe, since they would have forced him to repay the amount with interest.

light and insufficient punishment

He said: “He (Okupe) should have had to repay that amount plus the bank interest rate from the time the money was traced to his account. He did not get proper justice (conviction). They accused him of being in possession of an amount of money greater than that allowed. They did not directly accuse him of money laundering.

“I guess he must have made some arrangements because you could see he was confident during the first session of the trial when he was found guilty but had not been sentenced.

“He was saying that everyone should calm down, so when the sentence came to go and pay N13 million or spend two years in jail, before 4:20 pm, he had already paid the money, and no one asks, not even in the media, where he got the money from. I hope it is not the contribution from members of the Labor Party because that will be another money laundering offense because I don’t know if Doyin Okupe has a real job.”