GEJ's ex-aide confirms Metuh was paid N400m before 2015 elections
He said the purpose of the fund was for Metuh to fine-tune the former president's image ahead of his public declaration for the 2015 presidential race.
Okupe disclosed this at the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja while testifying in the trial of Metuh on allegations of receiving N400 million from the office of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki.
He told the court that Jonathan released the fund to Metuh after he (Metuh) presented ways to turn around the damaging image of the former president ahead of the official launch of his campaign.
According to him, Metuh and his team made a presentation alongside other consultants in a meeting attended by members of the Presidential Campaign Council including the president himself, his Vice, Namadi Sambo, the former National Chairman of the party, Adamu Mu'azu, former Senate President, David Mark, and former governors Liyel Imoke and Peter Obi among others.
Okupe said: “Yes, around that time (November 2014) there was very deep concern in the Presidency and the government about the perception of Mr President and his administration, negative perception by the Nigerian public.
"This also included some perceived ineffectiveness of the administration and also a wrong perception in some parts of the country about the role of government and its actions or activities concerning the very security situation in the country then.
“Therefore, in government, there was a general feeling that some actions needed to be taken urgently to address these issues, especially because of the coming elections.
“It was in the course of my discussion with Mr President when I also expressed my own personal concerns too that he informed me that Chief Olisah Metuh had some suggestions and that he (Jonathan) had instructed him to bring a proposition on what he considered needed to be done and that when this is done, he would inform me so that we can go through it together.
“Shortly after that, I was invited to a meeting in the State house where Chief Metuh in company of some consultants made presentations to the president. After the presentations, there were comments form those in attendance to add or improve in certain areas where they felt was important.
"The presentation was approved for action and the President said Mr. Metuh will be given part of the money that was in budget for the execution of the project."
Okupe, who was led in evidence by the lead defence counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, explained how he knew that Jonathan gave Metuh the money.
He said: “Yes, I know from two sources. First was the President himself who told me that he had instructed that Chief Metuh be mobilised. And that was during breakfast with Mr. President one morning. He told me that he had instructed that Chief Metuh be mobilised with N400 million. The following day, very early in the morning, I got a call from Chief Metuh who told me that he has received N400 million from the President."
Okupe however denied knowing that the money came through Dasuki when he was being cross-examined by the EFCC counsel, Sylvanus Tahir.
"I have seen the payment mandate from the office of the former NSA to Destra but this thing does not make any meaning to me. I want you to explain what is. I have already stated that the President confirmed to me that he gave the N400 million to Metuh," he said.
He said Jonathan enjoys tremendous goodwill from various individuals, which he said was demonstrated at the fundraising ceremony organised at the Villa before the election where the sum of N21 billion, and sums from other private sources where raised.
“The president uses his tremendous goodwill, which he has, to assist his party or help to execute special programmes that are aimed at improving the fortunes the party and the government. It is natural that such payments (Metuh's) would have come from the various amounts of money he has received as donations towards his campaign”, he said.
Speaking further, Okupe said after receiving the money, Metuh assembled a very large committee of various people, which included media experts and image consultants to work on Jonathan's public perception and that of his administration.
Justice Okon Abang adjourned the case to Thursday.
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