N2.3bn Scam: Court Admits More Exhibits Against Akpobolokemi, Others

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on Tuesday, admitted more exhibits against a former Director- General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi and five others.

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Akpobolokemi is standing trial, alongside five others, on a 13- count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing and fraudulent conversion of funds, to the tune of N687, 294, 680 (Six Hundred and Eighty Seven Million, Two Hundred and Ninety Four Thousand, Six Hundred and Eighty Naira). His co-accused persons are: Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba; Ekene Nwakuche; Governor Amechee Juan; Vincent Udoye, Captain Ade Sahib Olopoenia and Gama Marine Nigeria Limited.

At the resumed hearing of the matter on Tuesday, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, presented one of the three witnesses he earlier brought before the court. The witness: Olamide Ogunsanya, an Assistant Director in NIMASA disclosed to the court, how the sum of N795,200,000( Seven Hundred and Ninety Five Million, Two Hundred Thousand Naira only) was paid into the International Shipping and Port Safety, ISPS, account and how same was disbursed. The witness told the court that approval for the disbursement of the money came from the office of Akpobolokemi.

The document conveying the presidential approval through the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, was identified by the witness and same was admitted as exhibit P22. On the document, Ogunsanya identified the endorsement of the first accused person, Akpobolokemi.
Also tendered through the witness are letters from NIMASA to the Accountant General of Federation and approval from the Accountant General’s office. The documents were eventually admitted as exhibits P24 and P25 respectively.

The witness also identified the third accused person, Ekene Nwakuche as the first beneficiary in the disbursement of the N795,200,000. She told the court that between 16 September, 2014 and 6 November, 2014, Nwakuche received N3,000,000 each, on eight occasions, from the ISPS
account totalling N28,000,000 (Twenty Eight Million Naira Only).
Other beneficiaries are Avant Guard Securities, N94,000,000; Extreme Vertex Limited, N318,000,000; Suco Global, N15,000,000; O2 Services Limited, N21,200,000 and N16,000,000; and Aroward Consulting, N70,000,000.
At the end of the day, the witness said there was a balance of N198, 635 (One Hundred and Ninety Eight Thousand, Six Hundred and Thirty Five Naira
Only) left in the account.

While explaining the procedure for receiving and disbursing money in NIMASA, Ogunsanya said a request would be made to the presidency
through the NSA’s office and when approved, the DG
would then asked the Executive Director to implement. From the executive director’s office, an internal memo is raised and directed to the Director, Financial Services Department where payment instructions would be issued.

The witness further disclosed that on 20 March, 2014, the sum of N447, 000,000 was paid into the ISPS account and same was disbursed following the same procedure, with a slight change in the beneficiaries.
In this instance, new beneficiaries were included. They are: Green Lemon Limited and Seabulk.

Oyedepo asked the witness about the procedure for the award of contracts in NIMASA and she said the agency has different threshold in terms of contracts award as stipulated by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPE). She said the DG has An approval limit of N5,000,000. For contracts that exceeds N5,000,000 to anything below N50,000,000 it falls into the threshold of parastatal’s tenders board. Contracts that are between N50,000,000 to below N100,000,000, falls under the threshold of ministerial tenders board and any contract above N100,000,000 falls within the presidential or
Federal Executive Council’s threshold. The N318,000,000 payment to Extreme Vertex Limited was sighted as example of violation of BPE’s stipulated threshold by the former leadership of NIMASA.

Ogunsanya said that though the normal procedure for awarding contract was always followed, she never met or saw any representative from any of the companies that were alleged to have been awarded the purported contracts.
During cross examination, the witness admitted that she was one of the signatories to the ISPS account but when she was asked whether she was
aware of the 2013/14 National Assembly’s budgetary appropriation for the sum of N447,000,000, Ogunsanya said she had to look at the budget to be able to answer the question.
Counsel to Akpobolokemi, Joseph Nwobike, SAN, prayed the court for an adjournment in order to effectively cross examine the witness.

Justice Buba adjourned the matter to Wednesday, 2 March 2016 for continuation of trial.

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