N47.7bn NIMASA Fraud: EFCC Arraigns Tompolo, Seven Others in Absentia

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  • Witness reveals how N1.1bn released by Jonathan was diverted

Davidson Iriekpen
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) monday arraigned the former Niger Delta militant, Government Oweize Ekemupolo, popularly called Tompolo, in absentia before a Federal High Court in Lagos on a 22-count charge bordering on fraud, conversation of money and forgery.

Also arraigned in absentia were siblings of the immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Patrick Ziadeke Akpolobokemi, who was also arraigned before the court.
The Akpolobokemi’s siblings were: Igo Akpolobokemi, Julius Akpolobokemi, Stephen Akpolobokemi, Victor Akpolobokemi, Norbert Akpolobokemi, Emmanuel Ebizimo Akpolobokemi, and Clement Akpolobokemi.

While those arraigned alongside the former NIMASA Director-General were: Kime Engozu, Josephine Otuaga and Rita Uruakpa.

Also docked with Akpolobokemi are seven limited liability companies which include Mieka Dive Training Institute LTD/GTE, Oyeinteke Global Network Limited, Wabod Global Resources Limited, Boloboere Properties Estate Limited, Gokaid Marine and Oil and Gas Limited, Muhaabix Global Service Limited and Watershed Associated Resources.
The EFCC in charge number FHC/L/C/31c/2016, alleged that the accused persons had in sometime 2014, within the jurisdiction of the court with an intend to defraud, conspired among themselves and obtained the total sum of N47,683,464,822 from the federal government.

The accused persons also alleged to have between May 6, 2014, and December 2, 2014, forged and uttered a Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy of the old Bendel State of Nigeria, and purportedly issued same to NIMASA, claiming that it was issued by Warri South Local Government Council, Delta State, to the prejudice of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

They were also alleged to have received sum of N11,900,000,000 from the federal government, by falsely pretending that all the land and its appurtenances lying and situated at Mieka Diva Training Institute, Kurutie, Warri South council area Delta State, be acquired by the NIMASA, for the temporary campus of Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Warri South, council area is from encumbrance.

The offences, according to EFCC prosecutors, Mr. Festus Keyamo and Rotimi Oyedepo, are contrary to sections 8, 1(b) of Advance Fee Fraud, 18 (a), 15 (1) of money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act, 2012, and punishable under section 1 (3), 15(3) of the same Act, and 1(2)(c) Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of the federation 2004.

All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Their lawyers, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), Mr. inaji E. U. and Mr. Oyesoji Oyeleke, urged the court to admit them to bail in liberal term. Nwobike and Inaji, particularly, pleaded with the court to allow their clients, Akpolobokemi and Kime Engozu, to continue with the bail terms granted them in other criminal charges they have before the court.
Ruling on the bail application, the presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, while conceding to the request of Nwobike and Inaji, however admitted bail to Josephine Otuaga, Rita Uruakpa in the sum of N50 million with one surety each. The surety, according to Justice Buba, must show evidence of landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, and sworn to affidavit of means, while the two accused persons be remanded in EFCC custody pending the perfection of their bail conditions.

The matter was adjourned till May 30 and 31 for trial.
Meanwhile, at the resumed trail of Akpobolokemi and five others at the Federal High Court yesterday, an EFCC witness, Orji Chukwuma, gave details of how the sum of N1.1billion released by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 for a project in NIMASA was allegedly diverted.

Akpobolokemi and five others are standing trial for allegedly defrauding NIMASA to the tune of N2.6billion between March and June 2014.

He was arraigned along Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistics Limited before Justice Ibrahim Buba on December 4, 2015.
But the defendants pleaded not guilty to the offence.

Chukwuma said though the money was requested by a former Director-General of NIMASA, Akpobolokemi, in 2013 for the implementation of the International Ship and Port Security (ISPA) facility in NIMASA to carry out security checks on vessels entering Nigeria, 89 per cent of the funds were diverted.

According to Chukwuma, Jonathan approved the N1,123,400,000 on November 4, 2013 and it was released to NIMASA through a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), on January 3, 2014.

But he said the money was siphoned through six companies and by N3million cash transactions at 15 different times.
Chukwuma was the 12th witness called by the EFCC in its bid to prove the allegations.
He was led in evidence yesterday by an EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo.

The investigator, who said he was a member of the EFCC Special Task Force, said the anti-graft agency moved to probe NIMASA upon receiving an intelligence report that a “monumental fraud” was perpetrated in the agency by the accused persons.

He said the background checks carried out by the EFCC revealed that Akpobolokemi was a lecturer at the Delta State University prior to his appointment as the Director-General of NIMASA.

According to the witness, Akpobolokemi was the one who set up the ISPS Committee and made the 2nd defendant, Agaba, who was a former employee of Mobil and then an Executive Director in NIMASA, the chairman.

The witness said Agaba was one of the signatories to the ISPS Committee’s bank account from which the N1.1billion allegedly approved by Jonathan was diverted through six companies.

Chukwuma, who gave his testimony with the aid of a power-point projector, gave the names of the companies and the amount allegedly diverted through them as: Seabulk Offshore Operator limited (N437, 726,666); Ace Prosthesis Limited (N66,800,000); Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited. (N21,802,000); O2 Services Plus Limited (N14,200,000); Southern Offshore Limited (N402,480,000) and Caniz Limited (N12, 250,000). According to him, 15 cash transactions of N3million each, amounting to N45,000,000, were also allegedly carried out by the defendants.

Chukwuma told the court that the 3rd defendant, Nwakuche, who was a personal assistant to Agaba, owned the two companies – Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistics Limited – that were charged along with the accused persons as the 5th and 6th defendants.

“The money was meant for the ISPS 2013 but it was released in 2014. “This shows a pie chart representation of the funds meant for the ISPS 2013,” Chukwuma said, pointing the court’s attention to the power point projection.” “89 per cent represents the total money diverted by the accused persons and 11 per cent represents part of the money received by suspects who are now at large and also in the execution of some projects,” the witness said.

The case was adjourned till April 29, 2016 when Chukwuma, who is the last EFCC witness, will be cross-examined by the defence counsel.
The EFCC may also close its case.