The trial of former Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, whom the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC is prosecuting before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja continued on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 with veteran broadcaster, Olusola Atere testifying against Okupe. Atere retired as Executive Director News, NTA in 2016.
Okupe was arraigned 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.
Testifying as Prosecution Witness 2, (PW2), Atere told the court that “Okupe was a former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he said came to the NTA and met with the management of the News Directorate which he happened to be a member then, to request for the production of a one-hour programme to promote the policies and programmes of the then Federeal Government’s administration.
He said, “we held a meeting and started planning for the programme. Subsequently, members of Okupe’s team came for another meeting with NTA.”
Atere told the court that after the meeting, he was directed to raise a memo to send a budget proposal to the office of the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs on October 9, 2013 for which he said no response came from Okupe.
Atere further disclosed that the NTA appointed a producer for the proposed programme who was liaising with the team from Okupe’s office. According to him, by October 23, 2013, he was directed by his boss the Executive Director News to raise a memo to the Acting Director General NTA, informing him of the Okupe request and that by October 24, 2013, the Director General minuted to him that the programme should be taken as part of corporate social responsibility and be broadcast at no cost.
Atere informed the court that he didn’t have much to do with the programme from this point as the producer was liaising with Okupe’s team.
He revealed that Dr Okupe provided the three guests that discussed weekly on the programme as well as made arrangements to provide the presenters of the programme. “So I can’t say what kind of arrangement was made in bringing guests, who were experts and ministers, ” Atere said.
According to the veteran broadcaster, “Okupe never failed to provide guests and anchor person but at one point the presenter failed to show up and so I asked the producer what went wrong and was told that the presenter said they were not being paid by Dr Okupe,” adding that “the presenter asked if NTA can continue to sustain them but that the NTA said they could not pay as they didn’t know the arrangement. But we decided to bring two presenters who were staffs of NTA who will not charge any money apart from the salary being paid to them.”
During cross-examination by the defense counsel, Joe Kyari Gadzama SAN, Atere told the court that he was not aware of the arrangements Okupe had with the guests because that was not part of the arrangement with the NTA, adding that he didn’t have any financial relationship with Okupe and didn’t know what the arrangement was or how he got the guests.
He was also asked about a letter signed by him regarding a payment of N3,031,000 (Three Million, Thirty-One Thousand Naira) from Okupe’s office and the request of the NTA for more money which, he told the court he could not recall writing any letter or any money being paid. “Like I said, I didn’t have any financial relationship with them, the producer will be in a better position to explain, but I never collected any money,” he said.
He also claimed there was a slight difference in the signature in the letter with him, even though the letter bore his name.
The case was adjourned to March 15, 2019.