Justice Raliat Adebiyi of a Lagos High Court, Igbosere, on Monday, remanded, in Ikoyi prisons, a former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and six other staff of the agency.
They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged stealing of N754.7 million belonging to the agency.
The new charge LD/2181C/15 filed before the court bordered on allegations of stealing and forgery.
In the13-count charge, Akpobolokemi was arraigned along with Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Adegboyega Sahib Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited.
The 1st to 5th defendants (Akpobolokemi, Captain Agaba, Nwakuche, Juan, Udoye) were alleged to have, between October 30, 2014 and May 6, 2015, within the jurisdiction of the court, converted to their personal use N346.8 million property of NIMASA released to them for the implementation of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS).
They were also alleged to have on or about May 28, 2015, with a dishonest intent converted to their own use the sum of N257 million, money released for the implementation of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS).
The defendants were alleged to have, with intent to defraud, knowingly, forged a document titled “Re: Request for Payment as Consultant for VIMSAS Administration Services”, dated May 25, 2015, purported to have been issued by Aroward Consulting Limited.
They were also alleged to have forged a document titled: “Re: Final Invoice for Consultancy services with respect to the development of VIMSAS Implementation Framework, Reviews and Updates”, dated April, 28, 2015.
Specially, Captain Olopoenia, Udoye, and Gama Marine Nigeria Limited, were alleged to have, on February 2, 2015, with a dishonest intent, converted to their own use the sum of N16 million – property of NIMASA.
When the charge was read to them, the defendants pleaded not guilty and their counsel urged the court to admit them to bail based on the existing condition granted them in sister cases pending before the Federal High Court.
Addressing the court, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) counsel to Akpobolokemi (1st defendant) informed the court that his client is facing three other similar charges before the Federal High Court in Lagos and had been granted bail.
He submitted that the administration of criminal justice law encouraged judicial officers to grant bail in liberal terms and conditions.
He urged the court to respect the existing bail conditions granted Akpobolokemi, and added that there were sufficient materials before the court to enable it grant bail to the first defendant.
Besides, Nwobike drew the attention of the court to a ruling delivered by Justice Onigbanjo of an Ikeja High Court, where an accused person was granted bail based on existing condition of bail granted by another court.
Counsel to the other defendants aligned with the submissions of Nwobike and urged the court to grant the defendants bail in liberal terms.
Ruling on the bail applications, Justice Adebiyi refused the request to admit the accused persons to bail based on existing conditions given in the sister case at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
She held that it would be practically impossible for her to compel the sureties to produce the defendants if they (defendants) absconded.
The court however granted the 5th and 6th defendants bail in the sum of N2 million with two sureties in like sum.
The sureties must be gainfully employed and must reside in Lagos State. The sureties are to swear to an affidavit of means to be verified by the court.
Meanwhile the Judge has adjourned the matter till February 24, 26, 29 and March 18, 21, respectively, for trial.