unnamed (2) (1)

Naira Abuse: Understanding court’s pronouncements on Bobrisky and Cubana Chief Priest’s cases

Background 

Abusing the Naira in any form is a crime. The Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 prohibits spraying, stamping, engraving, selling, and mutilating the currency. 

According to section 21(1) of the 2007 CBN Act, any person convicted for the abuse of a naira note or who tampers with a coin or note is liable for imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 (approximately US$37) or to both a fine and imprisonment.

Recently, some Nigerian celebrities were entangled in legal battles over alleged abuse of Nigerian currency.

Among those prosecuted over the issue of naira were controversial celebrity crossdresser and socialite Idris Okuneye, who is also known as Bobrisky, and Pascal Okechukwu, known as Cubana Chief Priest. 

The issue generated much controversy and debate online. Many interpretations have been given as to why one of the offenders, Bobrisky, was sentenced to six months in prison without the option of a fine while Cubana Chief Priest was granted bail after paying a fine.

Reacting to the issue, An X user, SDX @SDX_Trades, wrote, “What Bobrisky money cannot do, Cubana chief priest money will do it.END”

Another X user, Olawale Quadri @QualityQuadri, posted, “LATEST on Cubana Chief Priest Naira Abuse⤵️EFCC, Cubana Chief Priest   to settle out of court, but Bobrisky is still dey behind bars for the same offence.” 

In a TikTok video posted by an X user, @Aramideoflagos, the speaker explained that Bobrisky was sent to jail because he pleaded guilty to his offence. At the same time, Cubana Chief Priest was granted bail because he pleaded not guilty to his offence. 

The speaker in the video asserts that the outcome of the case was also influenced by the counsel’s approach to the offenders. He noted the importance of pleading guilty and pleading not guilty in the face of the popular cliché that says a suspect is proven guilty of a crime until the case is established beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Due to the debate and reactions to the cases’ outcomes on social media, especially by X users, DUBAWA decided to highlight and clarify issues concerning the cases. 

Bobrisky and Cubana Chief Priest’s cases and judgments explained

Bobrisky was arraigned on April 5, 2024, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a Lagos court on four counts of naira abuse and two counts of suspected money laundering.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Federal High Court in Lagos later sentenced him to six months in jail without the option of a fine.

During Bobrisky’s trial, he pleaded guilty to the offence and told the court that he was unaware that he was breaking the law, adding that he was just a social media influencer.

“I am a social media influencer with five million followers; honestly, I was not aware of the law. I wish I could be given a second chance to use my platform to educate my followers against the abuse of the Naira,” Bobrisky said in his plea for mercy.

However, Justice Awogboro reminded Bobrisky that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, a notion that he (Bobrisky) agreed to. 

The Judge said in his ruling, “The act of mutilating the Naira notes has become a menace, which has continued to damage the country’s image. Enough of people mutilating and tampering with our currencies. It has to stop. His will serve as a deterrent to others.”

In a similar situation, on April 17, 2024, the EFCC arraigned Cubana Chief Priest on three counts of abuse of the Naira before Justice Kehinde Ogundare at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.

During his arraignments, the Cuban Chief Priest pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in N10m, with two responsible sureties in like sums. His case was adjourned until May 2, 2024, to hear his application.

In his last hearing on May 2, Cubana Chief Priest’s legal representative told the presiding Judge that his client had applied for the matter to be settled out of court. This means that there will be a need to apply for a withdrawal of the defence’s preliminary objection to allow for reconciliation.

Meanwhile, while serving his jail term, Bobrisky has also filed a notice of appeal challenging the six-month maximum sentence given to him by the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Legal practitioner reacts

While explaining the outcome of the cases, a legal practitioner, Ibrahim Abiola, noted that pleading guilty to an offence does not mean conviction, and the issues of Bobrisky and Obi Cubana must be viewed independently based on the merits of each case.

He said, “When a person pleads guilty, it doesn’t automatically translate to conviction by the court. The prosecution is required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction, and that was done in Bobrisky’s case.

He further said, “However, in Cubana Chief Priest’s case, you would need to look at Section 14 (2) of the EFCC Act. This section empowers the Commission to compound the offence and accept any amount of money that it thinks fit, but such must not exceed the amount prescribed for that offence. 

In this case, the Commission has decided to explore the provisions of Section 14 (2), and this should not be compared to Bobrisky, who pleaded guilty and couldn’t explore an out-of-court settlement.

Section 14 (2) of the EFCC Act states that “Subject to the provision of Section 174 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (which relates to the power of the Attorney-General of the Federation to institute, continue or discontinue criminal proceedings against any persons in any court of law), the Commission may compound any offence punishable under this Act by accepting such sums of money as it thinks fit, not exceeding the amount of the maximum fine to which that person would have been liable if he had been convicted of that offence.”

However, there are situations where the parties are unable to explore the settlement envisaged by Section 14 (2) of the EFCC Act, and this results in a full-blown trial, as seen in Bobrisky’s case.

Conclusion 

It’s important to note that the outcome of the cases is majorly influenced by the prosecution and defence’s presentation of facts. It has become a precedent for similar cases in the future. While the outcomes of the cases in their current stage underscore the intricacies of the judicial process and civil litigations, people might also need to be aware of the implications of their comments while a case is pending in a court of competent jurisdiction. 

This report was produced for the DUBAWA 2024 Kwame KariKari Fellowship in partnership with The Informant247 to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *