By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos is to rule on Oct. 16. on the no-case submission made by Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and others.
Akpobolokemi is charged with N2.6 billion fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Ibrahim Buba fixed the date on Friday after hearing arguments on the no-case submission by the Defence Counsel, Mr Joseph Nwobike (SAN).
On Dec. 4, 2015 the EFCC arraigned Akpobolokemi alongside five others, for allegedly diverting N2.6 billion from the coffers of NIMASA between December, 2013, and May, 2015.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the funds were approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project.
Also charged with Akpobolokemi were Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Ltd. and Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd.
The accused people had pleaded not guilty to the 22 charges pressed against them.
The prosecution had then opened its case and during trial, called 12 witnesses and tendered 77 exhibits in a bid to establish its case.
After the prosecution closed its case, the accused, through their lawyers, filed no-case submissions, contending that the prosecution failed to established a prima-facie case against them to warrant their entering any defence.
Arguing Akpobolokemi’s no-case submission, Nwobike contended that the EFCC failed to link his client with the alleged diversion of funds from NIMASA.
Nwobike pointed out that his signature to such effect was never shown to the court.
He said that the first accused could not be held liable because he did not approve the security project and the money disbursed.
Nwobike also described the evidence given against the accused by the prosecution witness as mere hearsay, which he said, had no legal weight before the court.
He, therefore, urged the court to come to the conclusion that the first accused could not be called upon to enter any defence because no prima-facie case had been established against him.
In response, the Prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, maintained that the testimonies of the 12 witnesses and the 77 exhibits tendered had successfully linked Akpobolokemi to the alleged fraud.
He argued that being the head and chief accounting officer of NIMASA at the time of the alleged fraud, Akpobolokemi could not by any stretch of imagination claim to be innocent.
He argued that even if it was the former president that approved the security project, Akpobolokemi was the head of NIMASA at the time, who constituted a committee to handle the project and also approved funds.
He submitted that the prosecution had established that rather than its intended purpose, the funds were illegally converted to the personal use of the accused.
On his part, Mr Edoka Onyeka, Counsel for the second accused, (Agaba), argued that there was a mismatch between the offence his client was accused of committing and the section of the law under which he was charged.
He noted that in the circumstance, the court could only dismiss the case and free his client.
Again, in response, Oyedepo maintained that Agaba was properly charged, adding that even if there was error, it could not be a basis to discharge him.
The other defence counsel, Mr Seni Adio (SAN) and Ige Asemudara, similarly, urged the court to hold that the prosecution failed to link their clients to the alleged crime and urged the judge to discharge them.
After entertaining arguments from the parties, Justice Buba fixed Oct. 16 and Oct. 17 for ruling.
In the 22-count charge, the EFCC alleged that the accused induced the Federal Government to approve and deliver to NIMASA N795 million under the false pretence that the sum represented the cost for the implementation of the Security Code in Nigeria.
These alleged offences contravene Section 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.