The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that Doyin Okupe, a former director-general of the Labour Party’s presidential campaign organisation, was wrongly arrested on Thursday by the State Security Service (SSS).
SSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, had said in a one-paragraph statement that Mr Okupe “was intercepted by the DSS at Terminal 1 of Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, this morning at the instance of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)”.
He was then handed over to the EFCC.
SSS said Mr Okupe was billed to fly to London via Virgin Atlantic Airline before he was stopped.
Confirming that the arrest was a mistaken step, EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, said Mr Okupe was arrested based on a watch-list request issued on 18 July 2016, more than six years before his recent conviction on money laundering charges by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The terse statement read: “The Department of State Services, DSS, today, January 12, informed the Commission of the interception of Dr Doyin Okupe, former presidential adviser, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
“The Service acted on a Watch-list request issued on July 18, 2016, over six years before his recent conviction on money laundering charges by the Federal High Court, Abuja.
“The Commission was in the process of formally lifting the watch list before his interception and will expedite action in this regard.”
Earlier, Mr Okupe, in a tweet shortly after the news of his arrest broke, confirmed his arrest by the SSS at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos on his way to the United Kingdom (UK) for medicals.
Mr Okupe, who was handed over to the EFCC, said he was later released with an apology by the anti-graft agency.
“I was arrested & detained @ the MMIA, Lagos this morning, 12th Jan on my way to the UK for medicals; years after my passport had been withheld by the FHC Abuja. I just left the EFCC office where Snr Officers in Lagos & Abuja apologised to me for the error. OCCUPATIONAL HAZZARD abi?” His tweet read.
His planned trip to the UK comes at the time the presidential candidate of his party, Peter Obi, is scheduled to speak at Chatham House on Monday, 16 January.
Mr Obi is scheduled to “discuss his vision for policy and governance reforms in Nigeria, including the priorities for tackling deep-rooted insecurity and corruption, and measures to promote social and political mobility for Nigerian citizens”.
Mr Okupe was on 19 December 2022 jailed for two years after the EFCC successfully prosecuted him for money laundering.
Delivering judgement on the matter, the judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, held that Mr Okupe was guilty of contravening sections 16(1) and (2) of the Money Laundering Act, for receiving cash payments without going through a bank, in excess of the threshold statutorily allowed.
The politician was found guilty on a total of 26 counts – from counts 34 to 59 of the charges.
The judge sentenced him to two years in prison on count 34 with an option of a fine of N500,000.
The court also sentenced him to two years imprisonment on counts 35 to 59 with an option of a fine of N500,000. The option of fine is to run consecutively on each count while the sentence is to run concurrently.
The judge refrained from making any custodial order but said the convict is the property of the state.
Mr Okupe paid the fine and was therefore not taken into custody.
After his conviction, he resigned from his position as director general of the Labour Party presidential campaign.
In January 2019, the EFCC arraigned Mr Okupe alongside two companies – Value Trust Investment Ltd and Abrahams Telecoms Ltd, over allegations of N702 million fraud.
READ ALSO: What I’ll do about Okupe’s conviction – Peter Obi
He was charged with 59 counts bordering on “money laundering and criminal diversion of funds” to the tune of N702 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), which was headed by Sambo Dasuki.
While closing its case, an EFCC witness, Shuaibu Salisu, a former director of Administration and Finance at the ONSA, said in 2012, he was directed to make a payment of N50 million to him.”
He further said he was also directed by the ONSA ”to be paying N10 million monthly to Okupe for over two years”, which he said was reduced to a monthly N5 million towards the end of 2014 due to paucity of funds.
Also, Mr Salisu recalled paying another N50 million in cash to Mr Okupe on the orders of Mr Dasuki, who equally faces charges at the Federal and FCT High Courts in Abuja.
Mr Salisu told the court that “sometime in 2012, Chief Okupe came to the Office of the National Security Adviser, and after their discussion, I was directed to make a payment of N50 million to him.”
According to him, “Okupe provided his account details, where I paid the amount into the bank account of Value Trust Investment.”
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