Former Chairman, Presidential Implementation Committee on Marine Safety and Security (PICOMSS), Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi (rtd), accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of criminal diversion of N600 million meant for the purchase of security patrol boats to fight illegal oil bunkering under his watch was yesterday discharged and acquitted by Justice Tani Hassan-Yusuf of the Court of Appeal.
Atawodi and one Rabiu Hassan of Hypertech Nigeria Limited were accused of defrauding the federal government the sum N620 million through suspicious contracts to procure K 38 armoured patrol boats which they failed to supply.
Justice Hassan-Yusuf in her judgement over ruled the judgement of an Abuja High Court which earlier asked Atawodi to prepare his defence against the allegation despite all the submissions of witnesses, including that of EFCC, and facts before the court that Atawodi was not culpable of the allegation.
The judge said it was clear from the evidence before her that Atawodi had no case to answer.
Earlier in FCT High Court, an EFCC operative, Usman Cholli, who is a witness in the case had told the court in a cross-examination by Karina Tuniyan (SAN) that â€œour investigation showed that advance payment was made to the account of Hypertech Nigeria Limited, and not to the account of Atawodi, and we found out that the sum of N620 million was in the companyâ€™s account.â€
He further revealed that though he did not see the contract documents, but that â€œthe description in the account from our investigation showed that the money was from PICOMMS, and even Hassan himself admitted that much with reference to N620 million from PICOMMS in his statement .â€
Further investigations and documents before the court also reveal how Rabiu Hassan squandered the sum of 620 million paid into his Hypertech companyâ€™s account including how he transferred and bought properties for himself from the N620 million paid into the companyâ€™s account.
Atawodi was arraigned along with his co-defendants on May 11, 2016, on a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.
One of the counts read: â€œThat you Saliu Atawodi (rtd) while serving as the Chairman of PICOMSS; Rabiu Hassan and Hypertech Nigerian Limited on or about November 28, 2011, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court with intent to defraud, did conspire to obtain property by false pretence to wit: the sum of N620,910,000 being property of the federal government under the pretence that the money represents payment for the supply of six pieces of K-38 armoured patrol boats to PICOMSS.â€
With this judgement, Atawodi has now been exonerated of any complicity in the Patrol boats scam.