A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, has adjourned till January 26, 2015, to rule on the no-case submission by an ex-Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Raymond Omatseye, charged with N1.5bn contract scam.
Omatseye is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on 27 counts bordering on the alleged crime.
The crime is said to contravene Section 58(4) (d) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and Section 14(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.
When re-arraigned on January 21, 2013, before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, Omatseye, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But to substantiate the allegations, the prosecution, led by Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), opened its arguments on February 4, 2013, calling three witnesses in the process.
Among the witnesses called were an EFCC investigator, Ibrahim Ahmed; a former acting Director of Procurement in NIMASA, Mohammed Shehu; and a staff member, Bureau of Public Procurement, Aminu Aliyu.
Upon the conclusion of the prosecution’s argument, however, Omasetye, through his counsel, Olusina Sofola (SAN), had filed a no-case application, asking the court to discharge him.
At the resumed proceeding today, Sofola adopted his final written address, wherein he urged the court to discharge Omatseye, as the accused could not be called upon to answer to a defective charge.
Sofola faulted the allegation that Omatseye had, by approving the award of a contract in the sum above N4m, violated the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
He argued, “Since the counts in the charge refer to monetary threshold and not only threshold, then the court must look at the definition of monetary threshold and not threshold.
“We also invite the court to look again at Section 16 (2) of the Public Procurement Act, which provides that the Council shall consider, approve and amend the monetary threshold for the application of the provisions of this Act, by procuring entities.
But the prosecutor, Obla, maintained that it was too late for the accused to raise objection to the charge, since he had raised objection to it before arraignment.
Besides, Obla argued that Omatseye had made submissions and conjectures in support of the prosecution’s case.
He said, “Assuming but not conceding that there is an error in the counts as contended, we submit that the alleged error, if any, cannot render the counts invalid having regards to sections 166 of the Criminal Procedure Law.
“The accused, who is a very well educated legal practitioner and represented by a team of formidable lawyers, never raised any objection when the charge was read to him.
“Upon being arraigned before this court, the accused pleaded not guilty to all counts; this presupposes that he understood the charge and was not misled.”
He therefore urged the court to disregard the defendant’s no-case submission and to order him into the dock to defend himself.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia reserved ruling till January 26, 2015.
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