Alleged N2.6B Fraud: Court Dismisses Ex-NIMASA Boss’ No Case Submission
- Orders Him To Defend Self
A Federal High Court, Lagos presided over by Justice Ibrahim Buba Ttoday held that the embattled former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA ), Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi and others, who are standing trial over alleged N2.6 billion fraud that they have case a to answer.
The court had earlier heard a ‘No-Case Submission’ filed by Akpobolokemi, through his lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) and other defendants’ counsels in response to the charge filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC ) .
The EFCC, had on December 4, 2015, arraigned Akpobolokemi alongside five others before the court for allegedly diverted the sum of N2.6bn from the coffers of NIMASA between December, 2013 and May, 2015.
The funds, the anti-graft agency said, were approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project, tagged, “International Ship and Ports Security Code in Nigeria Ports.”
Others charged before the court along with Akpobolokemi are Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.
But the defendants pleaded not guilty to the 22 counts charges filed against them. This made the EFCC to opened it’s case and called a total of 12 witnesses and tendered about 77 exhibits in a bid to prove the allegations against the defendants.
Upon the closure of the prosecution’s case, however, rather than for the defendants to open their defence, they filed a ‘No-Case-Submissions’ through their various lawyers, contending that the prosecution failed to established a prima facie case against them.
In the ‘No-Case-Submissions, Akpobolokemi and other defendants, contended that the EFCC failed to link them with the alleged diversion of funds from NIMASA.
Specifically, Akpobolokemi counsel, Dr. Nwobike (SAN) told that his client could not be liable because ex-President Jonathan, and not Akpobolokemi, approved the security project and the money disbursed.
Other defendants’ counsel, Mr. Seni Adio (SAN), Ige Asemudara and Emeka Onyeke similarly urged the court to hold that the prosecution failed to link their clients to the alleged crime and urged the court to discharge them.
But in opposition, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, maintained that the testimonies of the 12 witnesses called and the 77 exhibits tendered had successfully linked Akpobolokemi and others to the alleged fraud.
He argued that Akpobolokemi being the Head and Chief Accounting Officer of NIMASA at the time of the alleged fraud, he could not by any stretch of imagination, claim to be innocent.
He said even though it was ex-President Jonathan who approved the security project and sanctioned the disbursment of the funds, Akpobolokemi was the Head of NIMASA, who constituted a Committee to handle the project and equally approved funds for the activities of the Committee.
Delivering ruling on the application today, Justice Buba held that from the evidence before the court, the prosecution has been able to established a prima facie case against all the defendants.
The Court stated that the application of the defendants lacked merit and it being over ruled.
“From the evidence of the first prosecution witness, it is well establish that all the defendants have case to answer, the exhibits tendered and testimonies of others witnesses have establish that there is a prima facie case against the defendants, I see no merit in this application.
“This application lack merit, so therefore, it is over ruled. The defendants should open defence to prove their innocence”, Justice Bubba ordered.
Further hearing in the case has been fixed for October 30, November 7 and 9 for the defendants to open their defence.