NIMASA suspends nine top staff over alleged N38.2billion fraud

No fewer than nine top staff of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) have been suspended by the Director-General, Haruna Baba Jauro over their connection with alleged fraud running into about N38.2billion.

The staff, who were “interdicted” by the agency were those that have been arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court and the Lagos State High Court for various offenses including alleged diversion of the agency’s funds running into N38.2billion.

According to sources, the affected staff include the Executive Director Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba; three Directors namely Captain Warredi Enisuoh (Shipping Development), Vincent Udoye (Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards) and Felix Bob-Nabena (Servicom); and two Assistants Director – Governor Amechee Juan (Maritime Safety) and Ugo Fredrick (Shipping Promotion). The others are Timi Alari who is a former Personal Assistant to the erstwhile Director-General of the agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi; Ekene Nwakuche who is a Personal Assistant to Agaba; and Rex Elems who is Head Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) unit of the agency.

Akpobolokemi was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on December 3, 2015 before Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos along with Agaba, Nwakuche, Bob-Nabena, Enisuoh, Juan, Ugo, Alari and two companies Al-Kenzo Limited and Peniel Engineering Services Limited.

They were accused of conspiring among themselves to convert N3.4billion belonging to NIMASA. The commission said the sum was “derived from stealing.”

EFCC said the alleged offence contravenes Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition/Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3).

On January 14, 2015 the anti-graft agency filed a separate 40-count charge on alleged diversion of N34billion against Akpobolokemi and former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta, Government Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo. They were alleged to have converted the sum of one hundred and eight million, seven hundred thousand US dollars ($108.7m) and two billion, two million naira (N2.2), property of NIMASA, with the knowledge that the said sums were stolen.

Elem and Enisuoh were charged alongside Akpobolokemi and Tompolo while four companies namely Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Ltd and Destre Consult Ltd were also listed on the charge sheet.

The accused were arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Agaba, Nwakuche, Juan and Udoye are facing separate trial before a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Raliat Adebiyi. They were arraigned along with Akpobolokemi, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Captain Ade Olopoenia and a company named Gama Nigeria Limited.

The accused persons were arraigned by EFCC for allegedly stealing N754.7million belonging to NIMASA.

A staff in the office of the Director-General told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the staff were “interdicted” in line with the rules and regulations of the civil service. 

“All those arraigned have been on suspension but we don’t call it suspension. They were interdicted which means they cannot come to work until the end of their trial but if the court finds them guilty of the offences then their appointments will be terminated but if they are cleared by the court then they will return to work. But while they are on interdiction, they will be paid only half salary. This is in line with civil service rules,” a source who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.

The source said more staff will be suspended in days to come as the EFCC “charges them to court”.

Head Public Affairs of NIMASA, Hajia Lami Tumaka could not be reached for comments.  

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