A defence witness told the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday that a former spokesperson on public affairs for former President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, does not own a personal house in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Bamidele Salam, the fourth defence witness called by Mr Okupe in his ongoing trial, said this while denying the 59 counts of money laundering charges involving diversion of N702million levelled against the former presidential aide.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that Mr Okupe committed the offences while serving as the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs in the lead up to the 2015 general election which Mr Jonathan lost.
Before serving as former President Jonathan’s aide, Mr Okupe, a medical-doctor-turned-politician, had previously served as a Special Assistant to then President Olusegun Obasanjo, among other political positions he held dating back to the military era.
Politicians of Mr Okupe’s calibre holding top political offices in Abuja usually scramble to buy houses in choice places in the capital city while in office.
But newsmen report that Mr Salam, who headed Mr Okupe’s media team under the Jonathan Presidency, told the court on Monday that his former boss never had a house in Abuja.
“As far as I know, Dr Okupe did not have any personal house in Abuja. I never laundered any money for him and he never laundered money to my best knowledge,” said the witness.
The witness, who is currently the lawmaker representing Ede North, South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State, said he was not aware of any petition against his former boss.
‘Okupe, an upright man’
Mr Salam, who was being led in evidence by Mr Okupe’s lawyer, Joe Kyari-Gadzama, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said neither the EFCC nor any other body ever invited him (Salam) on account of his stewardship as the head of the media to Mr Okupe.
The witness, who said he was being paid monthly salary of N300,000 as an aide to Mr Okupe, insisted that his former boss “is upright and we never found him wanting as our boss.”
The witness said during the period of his employment, the media office had relationship with scores of local and international media houses, including online platforms.
“We also have dealings with media influencers to promote the image of the president,” he said.
He said the office usually organised weekly press conference which, at times, happened twice a week to inform the public about some activities of the government.
‘Okupe got N10million monthly from Dasuki’
The witness admitted that Mr Okupe’s office was paid N10 million monthly by the Office of the National Security Adviser to the President being headed by Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel.
He said the N10million was being used by Mr Okupe’s office for logistics and others.
‘How monthly N10million was spent’
He added that a programme on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) called ‘The Insight’ was paid for by Mr Okupe’s office contrary to the insinuation that it was part of the corporate social responsibility of the TV station.
He said not fewer than 30 persons, including Deji Adeyanju, a political activist, worked under Mr Okupe as media influencers and were duly paid by the office.
He said to the best of his knowledge, none of the workers in the office was owed any salary.
He said Mr Okupe paid for “all these services” through the money from the NSA office.
Newsmen report that after the witness was cross-examined, the trial judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, adjourned till March 5.
The EFCC is prosecuting Mr Okupe on 59 counts of money laundering and criminal breach of trust involving N702 million.
Mr Okupe’s co-defendants are, Value Trust Investment Ltd and Abraham Telecoms Ltd.