The Chairman, Section of Public Interest and Development (SPIDEL) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani has alerted the public to the consequences of violating the Money Laundering Act.
Ubani spoke during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, in the light of the recent conviction of the Director General (DG), Labour Party (LP) Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Doyin Okupe.
On Monday, a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu found Okupe guilty of receiving over N200 million cash from former National Security Adviser (NSA) Sambo Dasuki. He was found guilty on counts 34 to 59 of a 59-count charge.
Ubani pointed out that the trial commenced in 2019 on the backdrop of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) whose enactment occurred in 2015 to tackle the problem delays in bringing court cases to an end.
“I did an evaluation of that Act recently in a paper I wrote and I discovered that we have not moved away from that problem of delay in administration. (Okupe’s trial) is sounding so sudden; people are not even aware of this case. And then yesterday, there was the issue of conviction. So, it’s not today’s case. It has been there.
“But the point is that it ended yesterday with a conviction. They didn’t find him guilty of fraud or corruption, but for the fact that he had at a time an amount of money in excess of N5 million, which the Money Laundering Act criminalises.
“I can assure you that, now that we have started implementing this law, many Nigerians will go to jail because you’re not supposed to be given or carry an amount in excess of N5 million at a time,” he said.
The former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja Branch, noted that each of the 26 counts Okupe was convicted on carried a two-year jail term.
“But the judge was magnanimous in giving an option of fine of N500,000 per count. Now, if you multiply N500,000 by 26, it gives you N13 million. He paid the money and then walked away. So, he is still an ex-convict. Individuals should not at any point in time have more than N5 million in cash with him, either in his house or anywhere.
“What he needs to do if he feels that he was wrongly convicted is to go and appeal. He has an appellate option up to Supreme Court level on this matter. But if he wants to leave it that way, he carries the burden of bearing ‘ex-convict’ for the rest of his life.
“I don’t think there is any target against any person. It’s the issue of evidence. If there is sufficient evidence where somebody has trespassed a law, what happens? The court is right to do the right thing, based on evidence presented,” he said.
According to him, the Labour Party should carefully consider if the sentence given to the campaign DG is a political conviction or a genuine criminal trial.
“The political party has to sit down and say, ‘Do we allow a man with this baggage to represent us as our DG?’ It is for them to think about. Will it not create a situation where people will begin to look at Okupe as somebody that should not be in a position to market a political party that says, ‘We’re going to fight corruption. We’ll ensure there is no criminality and all that’?
“If you have such a think tank, they should sit down and analyse this situation. It can also boomerang in their favour. There are situations where people have won elections even while in prison in Nigeria; where people say, ‘It is a political conviction,’ but it will really enhance support for that individual. ‘We’re not going to allow this to happen. It’s not going to dampen our (spirit). We still believe in him; he’s a man of integrity,’ and all that.
“It is for the political party to evaluate all that: ‘Can we allow this man with this baggage to represent us as our DG, or we do we put him aside for the meantime until he sets aside that particular conviction, and get somebody else. But if they seek my advice, I would tell them, ‘At this point, you must avoid a situation where they will not use this against you,'” he said.