N2.3bn Scam: Court admits more exhibits against ex-NIMASA DG and 5 others

Posted by News Express | 2 March 2016 | 2,502 times

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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.

Akpobolokemi and his co-accused are facing a 13- count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing and fraudulent conversion of public funds to the tune of N687,294,680. 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 was paid into the account of the International Shipping and Port Safety (ISPS) 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 admitted as exhibit P22. On the document, Ogunsanya identified the endorsement of the first accused person, Akpobolokemi.

Also tendered through the witness were letters from NIMASA to the Accountant General of the 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 September 16, 2014 and November 6, 2014, Nwakuche received N3 million each, on eight occasions, from the ISPS account totalling N28 million.

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 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 ask 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, he said.

The witness further disclosed that on March 20, 2014, the sum of N447 million 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 million. Contracts that exceeds N5 million to anything below N50 million fall into the threshold of parastatal’s tenders board. Contracts  that are between N50 million below N100 million fall under the threshold of ministerial tenders board and any contract above N100 million falls within the presidential or Federal Executive Council’s threshold.

The N318 million payment to Extreme Vertex Limited was sighted as an 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 million, 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 today, Wednesday, March 2 for continuation of trial.

•Photo shows Akpobolokemi.

Source: News Express

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