EFCC Arraigns Ex-NIMASA Boss, Akpobolokemi On Fresh Charge
A day after arraigning former Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and nine others over money laundering charges, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned him and five others on a fresh 22-count charge before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
EFCC had on Thursday arraigned the accused persons before Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos. However, in the fresh charge filed before Justice Ibrahim Buba, the former NIMASA boss together with Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan and two companies; Blockz and Stonez limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited were alleged to have converted to private use the sum of N2.6 billion belonging to NIMASA.
EFCC said the alleged offences contravened Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition/Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3).
According to the charge jointly signed by Festus Keyamo and Rotimi Iseoluwa, the accused persons were said to have committed the alleged offences between December 2013 and March 2014. 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. Besides, they were said 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.
According to the EFCC, the accused persons between April and August, 2014 converted to their own use, the sum of N21,802,000 and additional N53,749,000.00 respectively.
One of the counts reads: “that you Patrick Akpobolokemi, Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonez limited, and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited on or about 4th of February, 2014 and 13th of March, 2014 in Lagos did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of the sum of N402,480,000.00, property of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, which sum was derived from stealing and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act.”
When the charge was read to them, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the offences. In his application for bail dated December 2, 2015, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), counsel to the first accused (Akpobolokemi) pleaded with the court not to impose stringent bail conditions. He submitted that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act encourages judicial officers to grant bail in liberal terms.
Counsel to other accused persons while aligning with submissions of Nwobike also urged the court to exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously. In his response, EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oladepo told the court that he relied on court’s discretion on the request for bail but stressed the need for the verification of all documents, addresses and names presented by the accused.
In his short ruling, Justice Buba held that in the interest of justice, he would grant the accused persons bail in order for them to defend themselves. Consequently, he granted all the accused bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum. The sureties must provide current tax certificate and must have landed property in Lagos. The court also ordered the accused to sign an undertaking that they will not unnecessarily delay speedy hearing of the matter, adding that trial will be on day-to-day basis and adjourned to December 7.
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