OPINION: If only Bobrisky was Obi Cubana, others…



THE Nigerian legal tender, otherwise called the Naira, had never been subjected to the kind of abuse it suffered in its history when billionaire celebrity nightclub owner, Obinna Tochuukwu Iyiegbu aka Obi Cubana, buried his mother, Uche Iyiegbu.

She died in November 2020 at 75 and was buried on July 16, 2021. Her son, Obi Cubana said it took him about seven months to plan the burial.

For days in the billionaire’s Oba, Anambra State, home, the naira was so abused by his rich friends, the Internet was shaken to its roots with videos of young, rich people throwing the naira into the air like it was some beach ball. A video that caught the attention was that of about five people using thick wads of naira notes to play a mini five-aside football in a big living room. That was the extent to which Obi Cubana and his billionaire friends went to abuse the naira even in the presence of his police friend, the disgraced former ‘super cop’, Abba Kyari who is presently in Kuje Correctional Center, Abuja, facing an ongoing trial (one does not even know if the trial is still on sef) for a litany of alleged crimes ranging from money laundering, aiding and abetting an Internet scam artist popularly called Hushpuppi who has been convicted and is serving prison time in the United States of America, drug running, among others.

Till date, nobody arrested Obi Cubana. When he was even invited by the EFCC, it was unconnected to the naira abuse issue, which the world saw on video and even hailed him for.

But crossdresser Idris Olanrewaju Okuneye popularly  called Bobrisky had to be the sacrificial lamb that the EFCC and the courts want to use to send this so-called’strong warning’ to Nigerians to further desist from abusing our almighty naira.

It is noteworthy to at this point educate the public that in Nigeria, the abuse of the national currency, the Naira, is considered a criminal offense, punishable under the law. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act and the Criminal Code Act provide clear provisions against the abuse and misuse of the Naira. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, Sections 20 and 21 explicitly state that it is an offense to hawk, sell, or trade-in the Naira notes, coins, or any other derivative, whether new or old, in public places or otherwise, without the written permission of the CBN. Violation of this provision can lead to prosecution, fines, and imprisonment.

Additionally, the Criminal Code Act, under Section 20, criminalizes the defacing, mutilating, tearing, or destroying of currency notes and coins issued by the CBN. Offenders can face penalties, including imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.

The penalty for currency abuse varies depending on the nature and gravity of the offense. Offenders can face imprisonment for terms ranging from six months to five years, along with fines, as stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy and the Criminal Code Act.

Bobrisky, was on Friday, April 12, 2024, to six months in jail for naira abuse without the option of a fine by Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Federal High Court in Lagos. Awogboro, in his ruling, said Bobrisky’s sentence would serve as a lesson for others about abusing the naira. He held that “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 serves as a deterrent to others.” Before the judge sentenced Bobrisky, he inquired about the crossdresser’s gender, to which he responded that he was identified as a man. Bobrisky’s jail term commenced on March 24, the same day as his arrest. The crossdresser will serve his jail term at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre.

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Justice has been served, and everybody is happy, so it seems. But let us take a critical look at a portion of the law that talks about Naira abuse.

The penalty for currency abuse varies depending on the nature and gravity of the offense. Offenders can face imprisonment for terms ranging from six months to five years, along with fines, as stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy and the Criminal Code Act.”

So, what we saw in the video where Bobrisky was gingerly spraying Naira notes at a public event qualified him to go to prison for six months, while what Obi Cubana and his rich friends did to the same naira as seen in several videos in 2021 made them eligible for National honours like MON, OFR and not a cell block next to Bobrisky? Only if Bobrisky was Obi Cubana…

Why do I have this feeling that the system threw the kitchen sink at him because he was Bobrisky; an annoying prick who goes about pretending to be a woman when he is actually a man and is making so much money from it) and some people just want him out of sight, even if it is for just six months, because if Funke Akindele was the one who was in the dock in the court room, would the judge have sentenced her to even a day in prison? How is Funke a celebrity that Bobrisky is not? Funke is even too big an example. There was this two-bit Yoruba actress, who until her case for the same naira abuse came up, I never saw her in any movie and I have seen so many movies; Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin.

On Thursday, February 1, 2024, she was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment for spraying and stepping on the new naira notes at a social event in Lagos.

According to the EFCC, she was sentenced and convicted by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.

The statement partly read, “She was first arraigned on February 13, 2023, by the Lagos Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on two-count charges, to which she pleaded ‘not guilty.’ She was subsequently granted bail on February 15, 2023.”

One of the court documents said: “That you, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, on the 28th day of January 2023, at Monarch Event Centre, Lekki, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, whilst dancing during a social occasion, tampered with the sum of N100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand Naira) issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria by spraying same in the said occasion and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act, 2007.”

But at the resumed hearing, Omoseyin, changed her “not guilty” plea to “guilty” and Justice Aneke sentenced the defendant to six months imprisonment, with an option of a N300,000 fine to be paid into the consolidated revenue account of the federation. Well, she obviously paid the fine and went home smiling.

So, why was this actress given a soft landing and Bobrisky was made to hold the crappy end of the stick? Oh, the EFCC and the courts just woke up to the realisation that the naira abuse is getting out of hand and they needed to use someone as an example. Truly, I really do not care if Bobrisky was sent to prison, but what is good for Bobrisky should be good for Obi Cubana, Omoseyin and even that young man who was caught selling new naira notes recently. All he got was some hours of community service.

By the way, what really is the big deal about spraying naira notes in Nigeria if the EFCC is not trying to create a storm in a tea cup? The rich and poor are guilty of this now’ serious felony’ and if the EFCC were serious about arresting and prosecuting every individual that sprays money at social events, half of Lagos would be in Ikoyi and Kirikiri prisons by next weekend because at every social event, both the rich and poor fall over themselves to’spray’ the celebrant’s naira notes, dance with him or her, and go back to their seats. Maybe the EFCC should visit any top class nightclubs in Lagos or Abuja and see what young boys (only God knows how they got that kind of money) are doing to naira notes. There is even a device now used in spraying money, and the EFCC knows, so why make it look like Bobrisky felled the proverbial Oba’s kolanut tree and so must pay for the crime with his neck?

I ask again: if it was Funke Akindele who was guilty of this naira abuse, would the court have sent her to prison? We were all here in 2020 when, on April 5, the actress and her (former) husband, popularly known as JJC Skillz were arrested, and the following day, they were charged to court for violating the COVID-19 restriction orders in Lagos.

They were also fined N100,000 each after videos of a birthday party organised in their house, surfaced online showing little or no social distancing.

Thereafter, they were sentenced to 14 days of community service.

Why were they not given the Bobrisky treatment, or was their offence not graver than naira abuse? The world then was battling with ways to contain a deadly pandemic, and they carried out an action that was tantamount to spreading the virus, which as of then had no cure (I doubt if there is still a cure for COVID-19 presently), but they got off easy.

Why was Bobrisky not given the option of a fine, even if the fine was a million naira, to serve as a deterrent to others that if you spray money, you may cough out a million (or more) as a fine in the courts?

Now, here is the catch: it did not take long for the Lagos State government to grant the then couple STATE PARDON. Yes, you read me correctly, Funke Akindele and her ex-husband were granted state pardon. They cannot be regarded as ex cons anymore.

The Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Kayode Oyekanmi, noted that the couple was granted pardon because they were non-custodial convicts. Very convenient! No soothsayer should tell you that Funke and her ex were given state pardon because they are celebrities!

The truth is, some people cannot stand the sight of Bobrisky who truly would irritate some folks in a society like Nigeria that frowns at that kind of lifestyle, but trying to use his lifestyle to sexualise and punish him is what others would not take, and that should make any right thinking person afraid. As a crossdresser, Bobrisky is not breaking any laws known or unknown in Nigeria, save for the scorn he attracts from the puritanical and holier than thou crowd.

The EFCC spokesman, Dele Oyewale gave out something in his statement confirming Bobrisky’s arrest on Thursday, April 4:

”Bobrisky is with us. He was arrested last night in Lagos, and he is at our Lagos command. We arrested him for alleged abuse of naira notes…

“We don’t have anything to do with his lifestyle (being a cross-dresser). He was suspected of committing an economic crime, and that was the reason for his arrest,” Oyewale submitted.

The fact that he mentioned that the EFCC does not have anything to do with Bobrisky’s lifestyle should make anybody worried. Was that even necessary if there was no prejudice against him because of what he is?

In a court record made public, it was learned that the judge asked Bobrisky if he was a man or woman. That was another sign of prejudice because the world knows that Idris Okuneye Olanrewaju is a man, and from there, Bobrisky’s lawyers should have known he was going to the slammer without an option of fine.

By the way, since the EFCC is so serious now about defending the integrity of the naira, why did the anti graft agency not arrest and prosecute the Olu of Owode, Ogun State, Oba Sowemimo who strung together 1,000 naira bills into long necklaces and was wearing it on Fuji musician, Wasiu Ayinde aka K1 Ultimate, at a public function recently in a viral video? What other kind of abuse would the naira suffer than that? Oh, that matter involved a royal father, not a Bobrisky! The only punishment so far the royal father has gotten is his reported suspension from the Council of Ogun Traditional rulers, and so what? When did Obas become so above the laws of the country that they couldn’t be prosecuted like a Bobrisky if they ran afoul of the laws?

Bobrisky is a celebrity, his arraignment and sentencing should break the records of court cases in Nigeria that we all know linger till even Jesus gets tired of it. Seun Kuti, son of Afrobeat legend and creator, Fela Anikulapo was seen in a video slapping a policeman last year. After spending weeks in police detention and the matter charged to court, till now, just like Abba Kyari’s disgraced super cop’s case, the matter has gone cold. Oh, Seun is not Bobrisky, he does not irritate and offend the public and private sensibilities of the  puritanical sect.

Bobrisky should be released and granted pardon. What is good for Funke Akindele, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, Obi Cubana…should be better for Bobrisky.

Akpovi-Esade is a journalist and public affairs commentator


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