A former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was charged with an alleged fraud of N2.6bn, has been set free by the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos.
In a consented judgment, Friday, the Court upheld the no case submission entered into by Akpobolokemi
The Justice Yargatta Nimpar, three-man Appeal Court panel held that the ex-DG of NIMASA has no case to answer at the high court.
Thus, the Appeal Court overruled the decision of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos, who, on October 16, 2017, dismissed Akpobolokemi’s no-case submission.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had, on December 4, 2015, arraigned Akpobolokemi alongside five others for allegedly diverting N2.6bn from the coffers of NIMASA between December 2013 and May 2015.
The funds, the anti-graft agency claimed, were approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project tagged, “International Ship and Ports Security Code in Nigerian Ports.”
Those, who were charged alongside Akpobolokemi; Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistics Limited, were not that lucky as the appellate court asked them to face trial.
The six defendants had all pleaded not guilty to the 22 charges pressed against them, following which the EFCC opened its case, calling 12 witnesses and tendering 77 exhibits in a bid to prove the allegation.
Upon the closure of the EFCC’s case in 2017, all the defendants had filed no-case submissions, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
But Justice Buba, in an October 16, 2017 ruling, dismissed their no-case submissions, holding that they all had a case to answer.
Justice Buba had held that, “From the evidence of the first prosecution witness, it is well established that all the defendants have case to answer; the exhibits tendered and the testimonies of other witnesses have established that there is a prima facie case against the defendants.”
Not satisfied, however, they all went on appeal and in a judgment on Friday, June 1, 2018, the Court of Appeal discharged and acquitted Akpobolokemi of the entire 22 counts.
However, the five other defendants were not discharged, as the appellate court upheld Justice Buba’s verdict that they had a case to answer.