March 5, 2018
The ongoing trial of a former Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpolobokemi, charged with N3.4 billion fraud was on Monday in Lagos adjourned until March 27 following an argument over admissibility of a document.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had called its second witness before a Federal High Court.
Akpobolokemi, a former D-G of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), is charged alongside five others on a 22-count charge bordering on fraud.
Other accused are: Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Felix Bob-Nabena, Captain Warredi Enisouh, And a Company named Al-kenzo Ltd.
Trial resumed on Monday at about 10.56 a.m. with the prosecutor, Mr Festus Aifeyodion, calling the second witness for the prosecution.
Aifeyodion informed the court that the case was for continuation of trial, and his witness was present in court.
The witness mounted the witness box and opted to be sworn on the Holy Bible.
In his evidence-in-chief, the witness introduced himself as Mr Solomon Akhanolu, a forensic and compliance officer with First Bank with his address at Marcarthy Street in Lagos.
He told the court that his scope of duty involves acknowledgement of emails and response to requisitions from agencies such as the EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (ICPC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) the Police and other law enforcement agencies.
On the transaction of events of Aug. 24, 2015, the witness told the court that the EFCC wrote a letter to First Bank, requesting for account opening document and packages as well as mandate card of the defendant.
He said that the required document including the certificate of identification, were made available to the commission on Sept. 16, 2015.
The prosecution then inquired from the witness if he knew one Mr Chijioke Enujioke and the witness replied in the affirmative, adding “he is my boss”
The witness further stated that both he and Enujioke perused the letters and document, before his boss appended his signature.
After the witness’ response, the prosecution sought for an adjournment to enable him tenders the said document.
He added that the available document before the court were not clear enough and so, he required an adjournment to enable him produce a more legible document.
Mr Onyeke Edoka, Mr Seni Adio (SAN) and Mr C. K Mmrakwe, Counsel to the second, third, fifth, and sixth accused respectively objected to the request for adjournment.
The Defence Counsel urged the court to proceed with the trial, adding that the prosecution could lead its witness on other aspects of the document which appeared clear enough.
Edoka specifically, argued: “My Lord, I can see the said document clearly as I have the sight of an eagle; I urge the court to refuse the application for adjournment and let’s make progress in this case.
“The prosecution has not given any cogent reason why an adjournment should be granted, and so, I urge the court to refuse same.”
Adio and Mmrakwe also objected to the request for an adjournment.
In his response, the prosecutor (Aifeyodion) again explained that he had sought an adjournment to enable him tender document which he was comfortable with since the instant ones were not clear.
He again urged the court to either grant an adjournment or stand down the matter for some time to enable him get a clearer copy of the document from the commission.
After the arguments, Justice Ayokunle Faji adjourned the case until March 27 and 28 for continuation of trial.
The accused were alleged to have committed the offences between December 2013 and July 2015 and converting N3.4 billion belonging to NIMASA to personal uses.
The accused were first arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu.
They had all pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails by the court.
However, following the transfer of Justice Saidu from Lagos to the Port Harcourt Division of the court, the case was re-assigned to the new judge, Justice Faji.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15 (1), (3), and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibitions) Amendment Act, 2012.