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Alleged ₦8.5bn Fraud: Court Frees Ex-NIMASA DG, Akpobolokemi

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has freed a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, over an alleged ₦8.5bn fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Ayokunle Faji acquitted and discharged the former NIMASA boss on Monday while ruling on a no-case submission filed by him and one other defendant, a staff of NIMASA, Josphine Otuaga, in the 22-count charge made against them.

Justice Faji held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

The court also ruled that a former Commander of the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, Major-General Emmanuel Atewe (rtd), who is the (second defendant) and staff of NIMASA, Kime Engonzu (who is the third defendant), have to open their defence, as they have a case to answer especially with regards to counts 12 to 22 of the charge.

Akpobolokemi had in a no-case submission filed by his lawyer, Joseph Nwobike, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, asked the court for an acquittal insisting that no case had been made against his client, requiring him to present a defence.

He maintained that the prosecution, with all its witnesses and the evidence tendered, failed to link him to the alleged offences.

Akpobolokemi was arraigned before the court in 2016 alongside a former Commander of the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, Major-General Emmanuel Atewe (rtd), and two other staff of NIMASA, Kime Engonzu and Josphine Otuaga.

The EFCC had prosecuted them on an amended 22-count charge bordering on conspiracy, conversion; and stealing by fraudulent conversion.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, Major General Emmanuel Atewe, Kime Engozu, and Josphine Otuaga sometime in 2014, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Court, with intent to defraud, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: Conversion of the sum of N8,537,586,798.58 property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

They had pleaded “not guilty” to the counts prompting the commencement of their trial.

After the prosecution’s case, all the defendants filed a no-case submission.

Delivering his ruling, Justice Faji held that none of the witnesses called by the prosecution led any shred of evidence linking the first defendant, Patrick Akpobolokemi and the fourth defendant to the offences for which they were charged.

The court held that having regard to the totality of evidence, the prosecution failed to provide any credible evidence linking the 1st Defendant with the commission of the crimes.

The court also held that the evidence led against him in proof of Counts 1-11 of the first amended Charge did not establish a prima facie case against him warranting him to enter his defence.

The court also noted that out of the eleven witnesses fielded by the Complainant, only one witness, (PW 2), gave evidence where the name of the first defendant (Akpobolokemi) featured, while other witnesses made it abundantly clear that, they did not know the 1st Defendant and did not have any dealings with him.

Justice Faji held that “if there is no sufficient evidence linking the accused with the statutory elements and ingredients, a court of trial must as a matter of law discharge him. It has no business searching for evidence that is nowhere and therefore cannot be found.”

With today’s ruling, Akpobolokemi has now been discharged on 4 out of 6 charges made against him by the EFCC. There are still 2 charges pending against him, one before Justice Bukola Adebiyi of the Lagos High Court and another before Justice Faji.

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