The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, ordered the release of the international passport of Doyin Okupe, former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, to enable him travel abroad for medical treatment.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, who granted the application, said she took the decision after careful consideration of the arguments of counsel to the parties in the suit.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okupe, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), is facing a 59-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust to the tune of N702 million.
While Okupe is the 1st defendant, Value Trust Investment Ltd and Abraham Telecoms Ltd are 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively in the suit.
Okupe, through his counsel, Akinlabi Akingbade, had, on Feb. 11, filed a motion, seeking the court order to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) for medical treatment between March 10 and May 24.
He also sought an order for the release of his international passport no: A05977293 to enable him embark on the trip.
Akingbade, in his argument, said since Okupe was granted bail by court on Jan. 14, 2019, he had always attended all sittings and had not violated the terms of his bail.
The lawyer told the court that his client had the history of sick sinus syndrome which required a pacemaker implant.
“A cardiac pacemaker was consequently implanted on June 25, 2015, and the 1st defendant has required regular follow up check-ups with his doctors ever since,” he said.
Akingbade, who reminded that Okupe had before complied with terms of his undertaking when the court, on June 26, 2019, granted a similar application to travel abroad, said he would resubmit his travel documents upon return to Nigeria to stand his trial.
The lawyer drew the court’s attention to what he called, “scandalous claim” made by EFCC’s counsel in his written address, that “politicians want to travel abroad so as to relax with white ladies in Bahamas.”
However, Ibrahim Audu, counsel to EFCC, urged the court to discountenance Okupe’s plea.
He argued that the request was a ploy to delay proceedings in the matter.
Audu explained to the court that the video of the allegation he mentioned in his written address had been trending online.
He said that Okupe only had appointment with his doctors on March 12.
“My Lord, this is a criminal trial and for the applicant to be away for 8 weeks is unreasonable,” he said.
Audu told the court that “there are good hospitals in the country to attend to him.”
Justice Ojukwu, in her ruling, rebuked Audu for telling her to “take judicial note of a trending video” in his argument.
“It is not something you should put in your written address,” she said.
She said in as much as the prosecution counsel would have wanted Okupe treated in Nigeria, “in reality, we do not have good hospital in the country” to attend to some medical concerns.
“Perhaps, if we have good hospitals, people would not travel abroad,” she said.
The judge, who ordered the release of Okupe’s international passport, ruled that the applicant should travel between March 7 and April 30.
She also held that the applicant should submit the travel document within seven days of return.
Justice Ojukwu, then, adjourned until May 19 and 20 for trial continuation.