A former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Mr. Raymond Omatseye, charged with N1.5bn contract scam, has alleged that he is being “persecuted” because he refused to do the bidding of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN).
Omatseye has been charged with an amended 27 counts bordering on contract splitting and bid rigging to the tune of about N1.5bn.
The accused, who has been suspended as the DG of NIMASA since December 2010, is being tried before a Federal High Court in Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Omatseye, who opened his defence on Tuesday, told the trial judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, that he believed his trial stemmed from his refusal to dance to the tune of the AGF.
Led in evidence by his counsel, Mr. E.D. Onyeke, Omatseye alleged that his trial came shortly after he declined a request by Adoke to discontinue a case which NIMASA had filed against the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas.
Omatseye, who had started his testimony on Tuesday by first craving the indulgence of the judge to allow him to go into background story, said the court could only appreciate his case if he was allowed to do so.
Though the EFCC prosecutor, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), had raised an objection to that line of testimony, the judge, however, allowed Omatseye to proceed with his testimony.
The ex-NIMASA boss said, “In December 2010, I was approached by a gentleman, who at that time was the Executive Director of the Cabotage Service of NIMASA, in the name of Ibrahim Zailani. Mr. Zailani told me that he had been in a meeting with the Attorney General of the Federation, and that the AGF had directed him to tell me to withdraw a case between NIMASA and NLNG. I told him I was unable to withdraw the case because it was a board decision.
“Exactly on November 14, 2010 between 12-1pm, while in my office, I received a call from a gentleman called Tunde Ayeni. He said ‘hello, hold on for your caller’ and then handed the phone over to a man who said he was Mohammed Adoke.
“The man said, ‘I sent Zailani to you to withdraw the NLNG case and you have refused.’ He said, ‘Mr. President has called me twice on this matter to instruct you to withdraw this case.’ I responded to him, ‘My AG sir, either you please send me a memo to that effect or please send a message through my minister to direct me accordingly; I am not in a position to unilaterally withdraw the case.’ He said, ‘I am the chief law officer of the Federal Republic,’ and I replied, ‘Sir, please help me to do as I have requested’.
“He asked if I was aware that there was a directive from his office that no government institution could sue another government institution without his permission, and I told him that the NLNG is majority-owned by foreigners and therefore cannot be considered as a government parastatal or agency.
“At that point he said to me, ‘I have given an instruction and you have refused to obey, this would be your Waterloo’.”
Omatseye told the judge that 10 days after the phone conversation with Adoke, three operatives of the EFCC came to pick him up for interrogation.
He narrated how he was taken to the EFCC office in Ikoyi in company with the Director of Procurement and the Director of Finance of NIMASA.
He said while he was on his way to the EFCC office in Ikoyi, he called the Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman, to inform him of what was going on.
“The question he (Suleiman) asked me first was ‘do you have any issue with the AGF’?” Omatseye told the court.
He added that they were flown to the EFCC office in Abuja the following day, where he was confronted with a petition written against him by the Minister of Transportation and which formed the basis of his trial