How NIMASA’s N1.5b was moved into accounts, by witness

AN Economic and Financial Crimes  Commission (EFCC) witness, Teslim Ajuwon, yesterday told a Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere that over N1.5billion was transferred from Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA) bank account into that of four companies.

Ajuwon, a compliance officer with a new generation bank, testified before Justice Raliat Adebiyi as the first prosecution witness in a N754,740,680.00 fraud suit brought against a former Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, and six others.

The others are Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Adegboyega Sahib Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited.

They are standing trial on a 13-count, bordering on stealing and forgery, preferred against them by the EFCC.

Ajuwon testified that on August 29, 2014, there was a transfer of the sum of N498.2million to an account belonging to Committee of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS), while on May 20, 2015, N318 million was transferred from NIMASA into the same account.

Led in evidence by the EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo, the witness added that  on September 15, 2014, there was a transfer of the sum of N8,550,000 into the account of another company, while N11.4 million was transferred to the account of Liquid Garden Ventures Ltd, on September 29, 2014.

Another company, Kofa Fada Nigeria Ltd, he said, got two transfers of N35 million and N61.8 million on October 30.

On November 19, 2014, NIMASA also made an outward transfer of N4.2million into the account of Specialty Enterprises West Africa Ltd and another outward transfer of N257million in favour of Aroward Consulting Ltd on May 28, 2014.

However, during cross-examination by Akpobolokemi’s counsel, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), the witness admitted that he could not recollect the total number of bank accounts related to the case and that Akpobolokemi was not a signatory to any of the accounts.

He also admitted that the VIMSAS account was an official government account and that he was “not in a position to state what the account was used for.”

Ajuwon admitted that the transfers were authorised by NIMASA, but that not being a staff of the agency, he did not know the reasons why the monies were disbursed.

He also agreed that, based on the knowledge at his disposal, some of the defendants did not benefit from the transactions listed.

The defendants’ counsels opposed the tendering of some documents by the prosecutor.

They argued that the documents were private documents and needed to be recertified by the EFCC before they could be admitted in court.

But Justice Adebiyi upheld Oyedepo’s argument that this was unnecessary.

She ruled: “This letter is being tendered by the maker not the EFCC and it is admissible as it is. It is produced by the maker. The submission by learned counsels that the document requires double certification is unmeritorious and is therefore overruled.”

The case was further adjourned to April 20, for continuation of trial.

The 1st to 5th defendants were alleged to have between October 30, 2014 and May 6, 2015 converted to their personal use N346,844,680, property of NIMASA released to them for the implementation of VIMSAS.

The defendants were alleged to have with intent to defraud knowingly forged a document titled: “Re: Request For Payment as consultant for VIMSAS Administration Services”, dated May 25, 2015, purported to have been issued by Aroward Consulting Limited.

They were also alleged to have forged a document, titled: Re: Final Invoice for Consultancy services with respect to the development of VIMSAS Implementation framework, Reviews and Updates”, dated April, 28, 2015.

Specifically, Captain Olopoenia, Udoye, and Gama Marine Nigeria Limited were alleged to have on February 2, 2015, with a dishonest intent, converted to their own use the sum of N16,000,000, property of NIMASA.

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to as the source.