Judge sends Master Mariners Association President, Ade Olopoenia to prison along with ex-NIMASA DG, Akpobolokemi

A Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Raliat Adebiyi yesterday ordered that former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Adegboyega Olopoenia and five serving staff of the agency should be remanded in prison custody.

They were to be remanded in Ikoyi prisons till today when they are expected to perfect their bail conditions.

The accused persons were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before the court over alleged stealing of N754.7million belonging to NIMASA.

The new charge number LD/2181C/15 filed before Justice Raliat Adebiyi bordered on allegations of stealing and forgery.

In the thirteen-count charge, Akpobolokemi was arraigned alongside Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Adegboyega Sahib Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited.

The first to fifth defendants (Akpobolokemi, Captain Agaba, Nwakuche, Juan, Udoye) were alleged to have between October 30,2014 and May 6, 2015 within the jurisdiction of the court converted to their personal use N346,844,680 property of NIMASA released to them for the implementation of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS).

They were also alleged to have on or about May 28, 2015 with a dishonest intent converted to their own use the sum of N257,000,000 released for the implementation of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme (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.

The offences alleged to have been committed by the accused persons are contrary to section 409 and punishable under Section 285(1) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2011.

They were alleged to have also 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.

When the charges were read to them all the defendants pleaded not guilty and their counsel urged the court to admit them to bail based on the existing condition granted them in similar cases pending before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Addressing the court, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) counsel to Akpobolokemi (1st defendant) informed the court that his client is facing three other similar charges before the Federal High Court in Lagos and had been granted bail.

He submitted that the Administration of Criminal Justice law encourages judicial officers to grant bail on liberal terms and conditions.

Besides, Nwobike drew the attention of the court to a ruling delivered by Justice Onigbanjo of an Ikeja High Court where an accused person was granted bail based on existing condition of bail granted by another court.

Counsel to the other defendants aligned themselves with the submissions of Dr Nwobike and urged the court to grant the defendants bail in liberal terms.

Ruling on the bail applications, of the 1st to 5th defendants, Justice Adebiyi refused the request to admit the accused persons to bail based on existing conditions given in the other cases at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

She held that it would be practically impossible for her to compel the sureties to produce the defendants if they (defendants) absconded.

Consequently, Justice Adebiyi granted 1st to 5th defendants bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.

The court however granted the 6th and 7th defendants bail in the sum of N2 million with two sureties in like sum.

The sureties must be gainfully employed and must reside in Lagos State and must swear to an affidavit of means to be verified by the court.

The matter has been adjourned till February 24,26,29 and March 18,21 respectively for accelerated trial.

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