N754.8M NIMASA Fraud: We Did Not Plea Bargain With EFCC -Ex-Defendants
Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
A new twist has ensued in the trial former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokeme and five others currently facing trial for allegedly stealing the sum of N754.8 million, as the prosecuting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has decided to withdraw charges against four of the defendants and made them its witnesses in the amended charge.
In the original charge filed before the court, Akpolobokeme is being tried before an Ikeja High Court of Lagos, alongside Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba, Vincent Udoye, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan and Captain Adegboyega Olopoenia Shaib and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria
However, in the amended 12 counts charge dated November 1, 2018 and filed before the court, three of the defendants, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan and Captain Adegboyega Olopoenia Shaib were removed from the new charge and same was withdrawn against them. They were listed as additional witnesses to testify in the matter.
At the last hearing of the matter, the Prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court presided over by Justice Raliat Adeniyi, that his agency withdrew the names of Nwakuche, Governor Juan and Olopoenia and make them prosecution witnesses in the matter, following a change of strategy in the matter and this gave room for speculations that the trio struck a plea deal with the agency.
Reacting to the insinuations surrounding the plea deal struck with the anti-graft agency, lawyer to one of the ‘new EFCC witnesses in the matter, Ige Asemudara, said there was no time his client, Governor Juan and others had a plea deal with the agency, rather it was the agency that spoke with his client and others that the charge will be withdrawn against them and later decided to make them prosecution witnesses.
Asemudara while reacting to media reports on his client and others, said: “the insinuation that my client, Governor Juan, had a plea deal with the EFCC so that he can be the agency’s witness in the case is not true and can never be true.
” The EFCC out of their own wisdom and strategy decided to withdraw charges against the three defendants and make them witnesses in the matter in order to strengthen the commission’s case against the remaining defendants.
Although I don’t know the exact discussion EFCC had with Captain Olopoenia and Mr. Ekene Nwakuche, but for my client, I know EFCC now prefers to call the three of them as witnesses and removed their name from the charge .
As for my client, plea deal was not a condition for removing his name from the charge.
However, he has been listed as a witness, he will definitely tell the court what he knows about the matter when he is called to the witness box. He owes that duty to the court and to the nation whether he was previously charged or not”, Asemudara said .
“We thank God that the cases are being withdrawn against him. This justifies our position from the beginning that he ought not to be charged”.
It would be recalled that as at the last hearing of the matter, one of the additional witnesses, Ekene Nwakuche, had given evidence in the matter.
Nwakuche, a former Personal Assistant to Captain Agaba, while being led in evidence by the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court, how the three defendants allegedly embezzled funds while at the helm of affairs at NIMASA.
He also informed the court that in order to syphon funds, NIMASA budgets were inflated by the defendants before taken to the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) for approval.
Nwakuche also stated that a VIMSAS account was opened in Zenith Bank on August 29, 2014 N198 million was paid into the account while on June 20, 2014, N300 million was paid into the account from the office of the NSA.
The former Personal Assistant noted that he had made various withdrawals worth millions of Naira onbehalf of Agaba and that funds were illegally transferred into bank accounts belonging to acquaintances of the defendants.
Meanwhile, further hearing in the matter has been adjourned till November 30.