The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Monday adjourned the trial of an erstwhile Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, untilApril 25 and April 27.
Akpobolokemi, retired Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, a former military commander of the Niger-Delta Joint Task Force, ‘Operation Pulo Shield’ and two other members of staff of NIMASA; Kime Engonzu and Josephine Otuaga, were charged with N8.5 billion fraud.
The accused were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 22-count charge bordering on fraud.
The EFCC prosecutor, I. A. Mohammed, and counsel to the first and second accused, Tokunbo Ajibulu and Chidinma Okoronkwo — were respectively present in court.
Also present was Mathew Buka, counsel to the third and fourth accused. The third and fourth accused were, however, absent in court.
Buka had apologised to the presiding judge, Justice Ayokunle Faji, for the absence of the third and fourth accused, saying the accused persons were not aware of today’s sitting.
The EFCC had alleged that the accused conspired and diverted N8.5 billion from “Operation Pulo Shield” between Sept. 5, 2014 and May 20, 2015, using some companies.
The companies are Jagan Ltd, Jagan Trading Company Ltd, Jagan Global Services Ltd, Al-Nald Ltd, Paper Warehouse Ltd, Eastpoint Integrated Services Ltd and De-Newlink Integrated Services Ltd.
In a separate development, a Federal High Court, Lagos, on Monday granted fresh conditions for bail to Alu Dismas, a former personal assistant to Akpobolokemi.
Dismas is the second accused in the ongoing trial of a former acting Director General of NIMASA, Calistus Obi, over N136 million fraud.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred eight charges against Dismas and Obi, who was also a former Executive Director, and later, former acting Director-General of NIMASA.
The duo, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bail in the sum of N5 million each, with two sureties in like sums.
The case should have come up for hearing on Feb. 26, which was the last adjourned date.
On the said date, the court started sitting at 9 a.m. When the case was called, the first accused (Obi) was present, while Dismas had yet to arrive in court.
The court had to stand down the case until 10:35 a.m., when the second accused eventually walked into the courtroom.
The trial Judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who was displeased with the lateness by the accused, consequently, revoked his bail.
She held then that, that was not the first time the accused would be absent for his trial, adding that the court could continue to wait for an accused.
“I hereby revoke his bail, he should be taken back into prison custody,” she held then.
When the case was called on Monday, Orji Uka, announced his appearance for the first accused, while Collins Ogbonna announced his appearance for the second accused.
Ogbonna then informed the court that he had filed a summons for bail on behalf of the second accused, whose bail was revoked on Feb. 26.
He moved his application dated Feb. 27, which he supported with an eight-paragraph affidavit.
He urged the court to graciously re-admit the second accused to bail on liberal terms.
The defence counsel also apologised to the court on behalf of the second accused for his lateness to court.
He recalled that his lateness then had caused the court to revoke the second accused’s earlier bail terms.
The counsel assured the court that such a development would not repeat itself.
The prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo and the first defence counsel (Uka), did not oppose the application.
In her remarks, Justice Olatoregun said that she had perused the bail application of the second accused, but was only inclined to granting bail on fresh conditions.
The court held that “The first accused was not only absent in court for the first time on Feb. 26; let him be warned that this case has dragged on for too long.
“Further absence from court will be met with stiff penalty.
“The defendant will be entered to bail again, but not in previous terms; he is admitted to bail in the sum of N10million with two sureties in like sum.
“The sureties must reside within the court’s jurisdiction, and must have tax clearance in the last three years.”
Meanwhile, following a letter written by counsel to the first accused, the court adjourned trial until April 19.