Judge ready to expedite ex-NIMASA DG’s trial

Justice Rita Ofili–Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has expressed her determination to expedite the trial of former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Raymond Omatseye.
Omatseye is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the judge over alleged economic crime and fraud.
The trial, which began in early 2011, has suffered delay caused partly by the prosecution and the court.
The EFCC has amended the charge filed in 2010, and on which proceedings began in early 2011, three times.
It did not give any explanation on why it effected the amendments.

The sudden transfer of the earlier trial judge, Justice Amina Nyako, equally halted the trial for some time.
Last Friday, the last of three days consecutive hearings conducted by the court, Ofili-Ajumogobia urged the defence and prosecution lawyers to ensure that the court’s intention to promptly dispense with the case was realized.
Upon an application for adjournment by defence lawyer, Olusina Sofola, the judge adjourned to February 28, 2013, for continuation of trial.
Before adjournment, prosecution lawyer, Godwin Obla, had tendered 16 exhibits and document relating to contracts allegedly awarded by NIMASA between January and July 2010 under Omatseye.
The items were tendered through the first prosecution witness, Ibrahim Ahmed, an Investigative Police Officer with the EFCC.

He also gave evidence in relation to contracts awards by Omatseye, and whose cost purportedly overshot the approved threshold limits for NIMASA’s Director-General.
He told the court that based on documents tendered so far by the prosecution, he was convinced the ex-Director-General exceeded his threshold limit.
The court had earlier last Thursday upheld the defence’s objection to move by the prosecution to tender, through Ahmed, two statements made by another police officer.
Ofili-Ajumogobia agreed with the defence that such move offended the provisions of Sections 49 and 50 of the Evidence Act, in that admitting such statements in the absence of its maker will deny the defence the opportunity to cross-examine the maker of the statements.

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