N136 million NIMASA fraud : Court reserves judgement for Feb 21

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A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday reserved Feb. 21 for judgment in a “no case submission’’ filed by an ex acting Director-General of NIMASA, Calistus Obi charged with N136 million fraud.

The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun fixed the date for judgment after hearing arguments from both defence and prosecuting counsels on an application for a “no case submission’’.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred an Eight count charge against the former acting D-G of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Obi, who was also an Executive Director of NIMASA, was charged alongside Alu Dismas, a former personal assistant to ex D-G of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.

They had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bail in the sum of N5 million each.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, Defence Counsel, Mr Wale Akoni (SAN) informed the court of his application for a no case submission filed on Dec. 2, 2016, on behalf of the first accused.

Akoni said the prosecution had not made out a prima facie case to secure the conviction of the accused.

He argued that a prima facie case could only be said to have been made out only in relation to the essential ingredients of the offence charged.

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Akoni said: “the test is, what the essential elements of each of the offence are and what evidence has been brought in support’’.

He submitted that it was not sufficient for the prosecution to have gone on a wild goose chase and brought out all manners of evidences before the court without doing more.

He urged the court to uphold his no case submission on behalf of his client, and issued an order discharging him.

In the same vein, counsel to the second accused, Mr Joseph Nwobike (SAN) also urged the court to uphold the no case submission of his client and discharge him.

He argued that the charges against his client were predicated mainly on conspiracy and conversion, adding that the prosecution had not made out sufficient evidence in proving an agreement to commit the offence.

Nwobiko maintained that to prove the offence of conspiracy, the prosecution must lead enough evidence to show “agreement” between the accused to commit an unlawful act or to commit a lawful act by an unlawful means.

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The counsel stressed that the prosecution had not made out a prima facie case against his client, and urged the court to so hold.

In response, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo objected to the no case submission of defence counsels, and urged the court to call upon the accused to enter their defence.

He queried: “Can it be said that from all evidences tendered in this court and admitted as exhibits A to Z, there is nothing linking the accused to the offences? I disagree’’.

Oyedepo argued that the evidences on record showed that funds were transferred to the first accused and further evidences led, proved that these funds were not administered for official purposes.

He submitted that the evidences were substantial enough to establish the complicity of the first accused in the charges.

In relation to the second accused, Oyedepo submitted that the prosecution had adduced sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case against him.

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He argued that from the evidence of prosecution, it is clear that it is the second accused who knows the company called Coster Mega Concept, to which the dollar equivalent of N111 million was transferred.

He argued that the second accused also nominated the accounts into which the funds were paid.

Oyedepo submitted and urged the court to have a glimpse at the totality of evidences adduced by the prosecution, before arriving at a conclusion whether same could secure a conviction.

After listening to the submissions of counsels, Justice Olatoregun adjourned the case to Feb. 21 for judgment.

In the charge, the accused were said to have committed the offence on Aug. 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.

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