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Monday, 16 October 2017

Akpobolokemi Ordered To Explain Role In Alleged N2.6b Fraud


A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, to explain his role in an alleged N2.6billion fraud.

Justice Ibrahim Buba overruled and dismissed the ‘no case’ submission filed by Akpobolokemi and five other co-defendants.

The other defendants are: Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan and two firms, Blockz and Stonz Ltd and Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd.

The judge ordered them to enter their defence on October 30.

Justice Buba said the arguments on the no-case submission by defence counsel, Joseph Nwobike SAN, was without merit.

He upheld the argument of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through its counsel Rotimi Oyedepo that a prima facie case had been established against the defendants.

Justice Buba held: “From the evidence of the first prosecution witness, it is well established that all the defendants have a case to answer.

“The exhibits tendered and testimonies of other witnesses have established that there is a prima facie case against the defendants. I see no merit in this application. This application lacks merit, so, it is overruled. The defendants should open their defence to prove their innocence”.

On December 4, 2015 the EFCC arraigned the defendants on a 22-count charge of diverting N2.6b from NIMASA coffers between December 2013 and May 2015.

The anti-graft agency claimed that the funds were approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project.

The alleged offences contravene Section 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.

The defendants pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution closed its case after calling 12 witnesses.

But the defendants, rather than open their defence, filed no-case submissions, claiming that the EFCC failed to link their clients with the alleged funds diversion.

Specifically, Nwobike said Akpobolokemi 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.

But opposing the application, the prosecution maintained that the testimonies of the 12 witnesses called and the 77 exhibits tendered had successfully linked Akpobolokemi and others to the alleged fraud.

Oyedepo argued that Akpobolokemi, as head and chief accounting officer of NIMASA at the time of the alleged fraud, 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 disbursement of the funds, Akpobolokemi was the head of NIMASA who constituted a committee to handle the project and also approved funds for the activities of the committee.

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