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‘How ex-NIMASA chief bought bulletproof car for self’

By Joseph Onyekwere   |   15 October 2016   |   3:39 am

AkpobolokemiAn operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Orji Chukwuma, yesterday tendered documents before a Federal High Court, Lagos showing how a former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Akpobolokemi acquired a bulletproof car for his personal use.

Chukwuma, who is the last prosecution witness, stated this in the ongoing trial of Akpobolokemi and five others for allegedly defrauding NIMASA to the tune of N2.6 billion between March and June 2014. Akpobolokemi was arraigned alongside, Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Ltd. and Al-Kenzo Logistics Ltd. before Justice Ibrahim Buba on December 4, 2015. But the defendants pleaded not guilty to the offence. When the case came for hearing yesterday, Chukwuma also tendered another document from an estate surveyor showing how Akopolokemi paid for his rented apartment situated on Ondo Street, Banana Island, Lagos.

Led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness (Chukwuma) said “the first defendant (Akpobolokemi) brought a document to us in relation to how he paid for his rented apartment on Ondo Street, Banana Island, Lagos. He also attached a document from an estate surveyor on payments of his house rent. He further told the court that Akpobolokemi also submitted to the commission a receipt for the purchase of a bulletproofed car.

Consequently, EFCC counsel tendered the documents and urged the court to mark them as exhibits. But, M M Ajuwa, counsel to Akpobolokemi objected to the admissibility of the documents on the grounds that he was not served with the documents.

He argued that the documents sought to be tendered ought to have been front-loaded in line with Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. Ruling on the objection, the trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba held that “it is sacrosanct that every accused person shall be given opportunity to defend himself and must be served with necessary documents including documents he (accused) submitted to the EFCC”.

Justice Buba subsequently adjourned the case till October 26 for continuation of trial. EFCC had alleged that Akpobolokemi and others converted for private use the sum of N2.6 billion belonging to NIMASA. The offences allegedly contravened Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition/Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3). The prosecution alleged that on or about February 2014 in Lagos, the accused persons conspired among themselves to convert the sum of N437, 726,666.60 belonging to NIMASA. They were alleged to have on January 9, 2014 converted to their private use the sum of N66, 800.000 property of NIMASA and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Act, 2012.

The accused were further alleged to have between April and August 2014 converted to their own use, the sum of N21, 802,000 and additional N53, 749,000.00 respectively. When the charge was read to them, they all pleaded not guilty to the offences.

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