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Alleged N8.5bn fraud: Court discharges ex-NIMASA DG, Akpobolokemi



A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday, discharged a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, and one other of alleged N8.5 billion fraud.

Akpobolokemi was charged alongside a former Commander of the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, retired Maj-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe and two other staff members of the agency, Kime Engonzu and Josphine Otuaga, on 22 counts bordering on fraud.

They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail by the court.

Justice Ayokunle Faji discharged and acquitted Akpobolokemi and the fourth defendant (Otuaga), while ruling on a no-case submission filed by them.

The court held that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

Meanwhile, Justice Faji held that the second defendant (Atewe) and third defendant (Engunzu) had a case to answer in counts 12 to 22 of the charge.

The EFCC had arraigned the defendants on a 22-count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraudulent conversion and stealing.

After they pleaded not guilty to the charges, the commission opened its case and called a total of 11 witnesses and tendered several exhibits in support of its case.

The prosecution, subsequently, closed its case.

The defendants, however, rather than open their defence filed a no case submission before the court, on the grounds that the EFCC had not been able to link them with the alleged offences.

Delivering his ruling on the no case submission, Justice Faji held that none of the witnesses called by the prosecution led any evidence linking the first and fourth defendants to the offences.

The court, consequently, held that having regard to the totality of evidences led by prosecution, no prima facie case had been established against the first and fourth defendants, warranting a defence.

The court discharged the defendants but held that the second and third defenders had a case to answer and should open their defence.

The court adjourned the case until May 6 for continuation of trial of the other defendants.
Akpobolokemi had in a no-case submission filed by his lawyers, Dr Joseph Nwobike (SAN) and Mr Collins Ogbonna, said that the prosecution had not been able to establish any case against him.

In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offence in 2014 in Lagos.

They were alleged to have conspired to fraudulently convert the aggregate sum of N8.5 billion belonging to NIMASA.
The offence contravenes the provisions of section 15 and 18 of the Money Laundering Act 2012.

Sandra Umeh

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