Alleged NIMASA Fraud: Accused Eeeps as Court Revokes Bail over Lateness

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For arriving late to court, a Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, revoked the bail of a second accused, Alu Dismas, in the ongoing trial of a former acting Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Calistus Obi, over N136 million fraud.

Dismas is a former personal assistant to the ex-DG of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred an eight-count charge against Dismas and Obi, who was a former Executive Director, and later, a former acting D-G of the NIMASA
They had however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bail in the sum of N5 million each with sureties in like sums.
The EFCC had closed the case for the prosecution on January 31, 2017, while the defence filed a no case submission in answer to the case of the prosecution.

The court had dismissed the No case submissions on February 21, 2017, and had ordered the defence to open its case.
Yesterday, the court sat at exactly 9a.m, and when the case was called, the first accused (Obi) was present, while Dismas had yet to arrive court.
The case was stood down, until 10:35a.m, when the second accused eventually walked into the courtroom.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who was visibly unhappy with the lateness of the accused, consequently revoked his bail.
She held that this was not the first time the accused is absent for his trial, adding that the court cannot wait for an accused.
“I hereby revoke his bail, he should be taken back into prison custody,” she held
Following the decision of the court, the second accused became emotional in the dock.

Meanwhile, first defence counsel, Mr Wale Akoni (SAN), began examination of the first accused, who was his first defence witness (DW1).

The witness (first accused) moved into the witness box and was sworn on the holy bible.

Akoni: “Look at these documents and confirm if they are contract documents emanating from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity”

In response, the witness said: “Yes, two are letters from NIMASA and the third is a letter from Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity as regards a contract.”

When asked if he participated in writing any of the letters, he replied: “No, I didn’t.”

On how much was requested of NIMASA, the witness replied that N35 million was requested for preparing documents for ratification of Maritime Labour Convention 2006, and N25 million was approved.

He added that he did not retain any part of the N25 million.

When asked what money from NIMASA was paid into an account for him, he said that they were refunds on a project NIMASA had not paid for yet, which he had used funds from elsewhere to discharge.

In his cross-examination, counsel to the second accused, Mr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) asked the witness “did you conspire with the second defendant to defraud NIMASA?”

Witness: “no I didn’t”

Nwobike again asked: “In your statement at EFCC, you said the second defendant sent you a text message; I can say the text was not a direct instruction from the second defendant?”

The witness replied: “The second defendant is not in a position to give me instructions, it was an instruction from the Director General of NIMASA.”

During his cross-examination, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, asked the witness: “You are sole signatory to bank accounts opened by you on behalf of the third and fourth defendants, am I correct?” The witness answered “yes”

Oyedepo: “is it correct to say that you received about N43 million into those accounts from NIMASA” Witness: “yes”

Oyedepo: “Are you aware that N111 million was credited to Kostan Mega Ltd as a result of the text message between you and the second defendant?”

Witness: “I wouldn’t know “

Oyedepo: “what were the services rendered by Kostan Mega Ltd?”

Witness: “I wouldn’t know.”

Oyedepo: “The total sum of N25 million that was sent to the third and fourth defendants’ bank account, what was it used for?”

Witness: “for my personal use”

Oyedepo: “Will I be correct to say you used part of it to build your hotel?”

Witness: “Yes I did “

Oyedepo: “You made cash payment of N25 million to one Mrs Braimoh, are you aware that it is wrong to make cash payment of Government funds?”

Witness: “ I’m not aware.”

The court adjourned until March 7, 8 and 9 for continuation of cross examination of DW1.

Meanwhile, the court harped: “Progress must be made in this case; it has lingered for two years, and we must take trial day to day.”

In the charge the accused were said to have committed the offence on August 5 2014.

They were said to have conspired to convert the said sum which is property of NIMASA, and knowing same to be proceeds of stealing.

The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of sections 15 and 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 2012.