On 17 April 2024, Pascal Okechukwu, popularly known as Cubana Chief Priest, was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on charges bordering on alleged Naira abuse (by way of spraying) contrary to section 21(1) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act 2007. 

Subsequently, the charges were struck out by the Court based on an out-of-court settlement between the EFCC and Cubana Chief Priest. The news of this outcome was however not well-received by some members of the public. 

The outcry stemmed from the fact that there had been earlier cases like the one involving Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju (also known as Bobrisky) which ended in conviction and six-month imprisonment without an option of fine. Two cases, same facts, different outcomes! 

The highpoint of the criticisms was summarized in a view published by Thisday where the writer concluded that the EFCC pursued a “two-faced justice system, [where] only the poor will continue to face the law while wealthy individuals will continue to enjoy preferential treatment.” This sentiment seems to represent the perception of the public about our justice system, generally.

While I concede that sometimes, wealthy and influential citizens appear to have their way with our justice system, the case of Cubana Chief Priest may not be said to be an example of such manipulative instances.  This is based on a careful consideration of all that played out in the case. To my mind, Cubana Chief Priest was saved by both wealth of means and wealth of legal advocacy

How Cubana Chief Priest was saved

From the reports, Cubana Chief Priest had the benefit of a strategic legal advocacy which was successfully deployed by his legal representatives. Although no one lawyer can ever boast of knowing all the applicable laws, yet, some thoroughbred experienced lawyers have the capacity to utilize windows made available by the law to address their clients’ problems. 

The window

In the case of Cubana Chief Priest, his legal representatives approached the prosecuting agency—EFCC to negotiate an out-of-court settlement of the case based on a peculiar provision contained in section 14(2) of the EFCC Act.* The section empowers the EFCC with the discretion to demand payment of money from a person charged with an offence in exchange for withdrawal of the charge. In law, this is called “compounding of an offence.” The interesting thing about this statutory provision is that it gives the EFCC wide discretion to decide whether or not to settle with the accused person out of court in order to avoid prosecution. 

In the case of EFCC v. Chidolue [2019] 2 NWLR (Pt. 1657) 442, the Supreme Court explained that for the EFCC to properly compound an offence under the EFCC Act, the following must co-exist:

1. The accused must not only have knowledge of the offence, there must be the actual commission of crime. 2. There must be an agreement not to prosecute. 3. There must be a receipt of consideration, i.e., sums of money exceeding the maximum amount to which that person would have been liable if he had been convicted of the offence. 4. The offence must be punishable under the EFCC Act.

In the case of Cubana Chief Priest, the EFCC confirmed the fulfillment of the above conditions including the agreement to pay the sum of Ten Million Naira not to the EFCC or any of its officers, but into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation as required by law (section 14(3) EFCC Act 2004), and as ordered by the Court. The implication is that Cubana Chief Priest had the financial muscle (wealth of means) to meet the heavy demand of the EFCC before the offence could be compounded. Therefore, in addition to his Counsel’s legal advocacy, his wealth also came to his aid. As proudly stated by EFCC, Ten Million Naira payment far exceeded the Fifty Thousand Naira fine the offence carries.

Interestingly, aside from the payment of Ten Million Naira, Cubana Chief Priest was also ordered to lead a sensitization campaign against abuse of Naira using his social media handles. By this, the Court demonstrated that it was in tune with the status of Cubana Chief Priest as a social media influencer with a large following. It is only hoped that the EFCC will hold him to strict compliance.


An offender charged to court may approach the EFCC through his or her legal representatives to consider invoking the provisions of section 14(2) of the EFCC Act. But the EFCC is not bound to compound an offence for every offender. Also, the EFCC is not legally obligated to activate the provisions of section 14(2) or to inform or pre-inform any offender of the provisions of this section. 

From the reports, there was no evidence that Bobrisky through his legal representatives approached the EFCC for possible compounding of the offence. And even if Bobrisky had done so, the EFCC reserves the discretion to refuse to compound the offence. 

Moreso, considering Bobrisky’s affluent lifestyle, it is doubtful if he lacked the financial capacity to pay the price assuming EFCC had agreed to compound the offence through out-of-court settlement. Therefore, Bobrisky’s case compared to Cubana Chief Priest’s case does not appear to be a case of the rich  being given preferential treatment per se. 

Let me also use this opportunity to address the issue of Bobrisky’s conviction and sentencing (to 6 months imprisonment–that is the minimum sentence) without an option of fine. Under Nigerian criminal law, the statute creating an offence often provides the punishment for it. Where the law provides a jail term and makes payment of fine an alternative option, the Judge has a discretion either to sentence the convict to a certain jail term as prescribed by law or to dispense with jail term and order the person to pay the fine prescribed by law. In some instances, the statute may also prescribe both fine and jail term. Section 21(1) of the CBN Act which criminalizes Naira abuse provides:

A person who tampers with a coin or note issued by the Bank is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than six months or to a fine not less than N50,000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.

From the above provision, it is clear that the Judge has either of three options. First, to sentence Bobrisky to 6 months imprisonment (or more than 6 months but never less than 6 months). Second, to fine Bobrisky the sum of N50,000 (or more but never less than N50,000). Third, to sentence Bobrisky and also fine him. The Judge opted to hand Bobrisky the minimum sentence of 6 months (even when the Judge had the power to make it more than that) without any need to pay a fine. A number of factors usually weigh on the mind of the Judge in making a decision. In exercising discretion, the Judge may consider which of the options will better serve as a deterrent. There is nothing to support any inference of abuse of discretion on the part of the Judge in Bobrisky’s case.


To successfully criticize the EFCC and the courts, one should be able to point out how a particular provision of the statute was not followed, or show evidence of abuse of discretion. In the instant cases of Bobrisky and Cubana Chief Priest, I am unable to find any breach of statutory provision or abuse of discretion on the part of the EFCC. With a plea of Guilty when arraigned, Bobrisky risked it all; but with a plea of Not Guilty, Cubana Chief Priest set the pace for the legal exploitation by his legal team of a statutory window as installed in section 14(2) of the EFCC Act.


Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has advised a number of both established and startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.
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