The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday called its second prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of a former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who is being prosecuted on money laundering charges.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had alleged that Okupe and his co-defendants, in 2014, took about N240m from the Office of the National Security Adviser without any justification.
But Okupe had denied the allegation.
The second prosecution witness, a former Executive Director, News, Nigerian Television Authority, Mr. Olusola Atere, while testifying before the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday stirred a controversy when he said he could “not recall” authoring a letter said to be bearing NTA logo, his name, and signature.
The letter produced in court by the defence team led by Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), was said to have been addressed to Okupe’s office as SSA to the President, acknowledging the presidential aide’s ‘OK’ payment of about N3m for the sponsorship of a programme, ‘Insight’, on NTA.
The defence said the letter not only acknowledged the payment of the N3m but also requested more money for the programme which was said to have been aired by the national television for many months.
Responding under cross-examination, Atere, who had in his evidence-in-chief, told the court that the programme was aired by NTA as part of its corporate social responsibility on a free-of-charge basis, said he could not recall authoring the letter.
Asked by Gazdama if the signature on the document was his, the witness, said, “I can’t recall writing this letter because the signature slightly looks different from my signature.”
The witness repeated the same line when asked the same question at different times.
The judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, while cautioning the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Audu Ibrahim, to refrain from unnecessary interjection that could suggest answers to Atere, noted that the witness’ testimony was not a total denial of the signature or the letter.
The judge observed that the witness’ inability to recall authoring the letter did not necessarily imply that he did not author it.
She then directed the witness to sign a specimen signature which would be compared with his signatures on another document already admitted as an exhibit and on the document being contested.
Earlier in his evidence-in-chief, Atere, who was led by the prosecuting counsel, Audu, said the programme, ‘Insight’, was meant for the promotion of the former President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal Government’s policies and programmes.
He said by the arrangement they agreed on at the preliminary meeting before floating the programme, Okupe, as SSA to the President on Public Affairs, was to provide presenters and guests, including serving ministers, who would speak at each edition of the programme.
The 59 counts instituted against the former presidential aide by the EFCC involved allegations that the defendants, including Okupe, took from the Office of the National Security Adviser about N240m said to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
Justice Ojukwu adjourned the case till March 15 and April 1.