The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has again arraigned a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi, for alleged N8.5 billion fraud.
Arraigned alongside Akpobolokemi on Friday on fresh 11 counts was a former Commander of the military Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, in the Niger Delta, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Atewe.
The other defendants in the charge filed by the EFCC before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos are Kime Engozu and Josephine Otuaga.
The anti-graft agency alleged that Akpobolokemi and his alleged accomplices conspired among themselves to defraud NIMASA of N8.5bn using six companies – Jagan Limited; Jagan Trading Company Limited; Jagan Global Services Limited; Al-Nald Limited; Paper Warehouse Limited; Eastpoint Integrated Services Limited and De-Newlink Integrated Services Limited.
The EFCC claimed that the defendants committed the alleged fraud between September 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
The defendants are also being tried for allegedly violating Section 390 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C. 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
But upon reading the charges to them on Friday, they all pleaded not guilty.
Following applications for bail through their counsel including Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Justice Saidu admitted all the defendants to bail.
Akpobolokemi, who had earlier been arraigned before Justice Saidu on December 3, 2015 on a separate charge involving an alleged N3.4bn fraud, was allowed by the judge to continue on the bail of N20m granted him in the earlier case.
However, the other defendants, Atewe, Engozu and Otuaga were each granted a bail of N100m with two sureties in like sum.
The judge said one of the sureties must a relative of the accused person who owns a landed property within Ikoyi, Lekki or Victoria Island area of Lagos.
The other surety, the judge said, must be a civil servant on a level not below that of a Deputy Director in either the state or Federal Civil Service.
He ordered all the defendants to deposit their passport with the Chief Registrar of the Court pending the conclusion of trial.
Justice Saidu ordered the prison remand of the accused persons pending the perfection of the conditions attached to the bail.
He adjourned till June 24, 2016 for commencement of trial.
The instant charge was the sixth that the EFCC filed against Akpobolokemi after he was removed as the NIMASA DG by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The ex-DG is currently being tried on three separate charges involving alleged N2.6bn, N22.7bn and N45.9bn frauds before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
He is also being tried by the EFCC before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere for an alleged theft of N754.7m.
The two charges against him before Justice Saidu involve alleged N3.4bn and N8.5bn frauds.