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N2.6bn fraud: Appeal court discharges ex-NIMASA DG

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The Court of Appeal, sitting in Lagos, yesterday, discharged and acquitted a former director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, who was charged with alleged N2.6 billion fraud.

Others charged alongside Akpobolokemi were Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Ltd and Al-Kenzo Logistics Ltd.

In a lead judgment delivered by Justice Yargatta Nimpar, the court upheld the no-case submission filed by Akpobolokemi in response to the criminal charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The appellate court overruled the decision of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos, who had on October 16, last year, dismissed Akpobolokemi’s no-case submission.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Justice Nimpar discharged and acquitted Akpobolokemi of the entire 22 counts.

The court, however, ordered that Agaba, Nwakuche, Juan, Blockz and Stonz Ltd and Al-Kenzo Logistics Ltd had cases to answer and therefore ordered them to go back to the lower court for trial to continue.

The anti-graft agency had on December 4, 2015, arraigned Akpobolokemi, alongside the five others, for allegedly diverting N2.6billion from the coffers of NIMASA between December 2013 and May 2015.

The prosecution claimed that the funds were approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project, tagged, ‘International Ship and Ports Security Code in Nigerian Ports.’

The defendants had all pleaded not guilty to the 22-count charges pressed against them, while the EFCC had opened its case, calling 12 witnesses and tendering 77 exhibits to establish the allegations against the defendant.

After the prosecution closed its case last year, all the defendants filed no-case submissions, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

However, Justice Buba, in his ruling of October 16, last year, dismissed their no-case submissions, holding that they had cases to answer.

Justice Buba held that from the evidence of the first prosecution witness, it was well established that all the defendants had cases to answer.

He had also held that the exhibits tendered and the testimonies of other witnesses had established a prima facie case against them.

Dissatisfied with lower court’s verdict, the defendants filed an appeal, urging the appellate court to upturn the ruling of the lower court.

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