- How Akpobolokemi, EDs, Others Shared Tompolo’s Money
- Stakeholders Call for Investigation Report As Court Arraign 7 Staff
There is a strong raging suspicion among stakeholders in the legal profession and maritime industry that the Acting Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Haruna Jauro may have been exonerated from the list of the agency’s members of staff charged to court because of “White-colar bribery” of the officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They have therefore called on EFCC to make public its investigation report on the alleged fraud in NIMASA or the basis upon which Jauro, who was the former Executive Director, Finance and Administration, under whose watch the fraud was perpetrated is being exonerated.
This is coming as MMS Plus ran into how the former entire executive management of NIMASA led by the ex-director general, Patrick Akpobolokemi allegedly shared on monthly basis, a N100million settlement fee handed down to them from the N450million monthly payment to High Chief Government Ekpemupolo known as Tompolo for the provision of security intelligence around the nation’s maritime domain.
EFCC had on Thursday, this week, arraigned Akpobolokemi and seven other serving NIMASA members of staff before Justice Salihu Sa’idu of the Federal High Court, Lagos on a 30-count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraudulent conversion of funds and money laundering. The seven members of staff are: Capt. Ezekiel Agaba, executive director; Capt. Warredi Enisuoh; Ekene Nwakuche; Felix Bob-Nabena; Governor Juan; Ugo Frederick; Timi Alari. Two companies joined in the suit are: Alkenzo Limited and Penniel Engineering Services Limited.
They were accused of allegedly conspiring to convert over N1.2 billion and launder same under the guise of providing security intelligence in the maritime domain.
While Capt. Enisuoh, one of the accused persons is said to be threatening to release a can of worm over the selective arraignment, saying “ if the Ag. DG pulls me down, I will drag him and others along. Why should he be exonerated?”, a maritime lawyer, Barr. Okwudili Alagbu, Principal Counsel of Okwudili Alagbu & Co. (Victory Chambers) while calling for the disclosure of the investigation report said, “ There is a moral question here, in a situation where EFCC arraigns some members of the former executive management team in a case of corrupt enrichment and you have an executive director in charge of Finance under whose watch the crime was perpetrated walking free? It begs the question of how people that were arraigned got access to the money which runs into billion, presupposing that it went through a financial channel that a particular person is in charge of. This raises a lot of moral questions of why some people should be left out.
“ What type of investigation report exonerated them because I want to believe that at a certain stage in the investigation, all of them must have presumed to be guilty until the conclusion of the investigation which eventually exonerated some. It is a very curious situation that the people who are handling this prosecution have an explanation to make to Nigerians. EFCC is the principal that employed lawyers that are prosecuting the case and I think they should try to build more credibility into their operations because they are occupying a disadvantaged position because you cannot fight corruption when corruption is all around you,” the Lawyer noted, adding, the Ag. DG may have played white-collar politics to clear himself for confirmation. The other ED, Callistus Obi may have been delisted for a sensitive reason. Justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done. What should a reasonable man on the street seeing this say?
A Deputy Director in NIMASA who pleaded anonymity summed up the general feelings of many industry stakeholders as: “ I will take it from the perspective of what people are saying. Why selective enforcement of prosecution and leaving others who are in the same ditch? There is no way anybody can do justice in that case by exonerating certain group of people. It is not done. Everybody is as guilty as Akpobolokemi, especially the ED, Administration and Finance. On three counts, he is privy to everything that transpired and went wrong under Akpobolokemi. Two, if he claims not to be aware of what was going on, why did he still keep his position as ED? “He should have resigned! In fact, it is a misnomer that his name is not on that list. Three, the three EDs are as guilty as Akpos, because they were members of the executive not just management ; executive management of NIMASA. All decisions taken were collective and they were individually and collectively liable for whatever decisions taken. So justice must be done. When Akpos left the other three should have also gone, or be on suspension.
“And I don’t see how EFCC can do justice to the investigation when the people arraigned are still in the service of NIMASA. They should be on suspension until they clear themselves off the mess. The fact is that they must be something underneath that the rest of us do not know why those two other names are not on that list, and if anybody is exonerating them, the person must give justification for doing so.” The source added.
With the ongoing prosecution and bitterness boiling in the system, NIMASA is in disarray. Many directors and other management staff are disenchanted with the leadership. Jauro has called for the meeting of the Parastatal tender board severally but it could not hold. Only two directors in the system are confirmed others are on acting capacity and therefore not obliged to attend and this is creating hiccup in operations, MMS Plus gathered.
Meanwhile, investigations have revealed that under the Akpobolokemi led NIMASA leadership, each of the three executive directors allegedly got N15million monthly; directors, N5million; deputy directors, N3million and assistant directors,N3million; all on monthly basis depending on how close and relevant the person was to the maritime security contract.
However, Barr. Okwudili also averred that it depends on the facts of the case as somebody cannot be guilty just because he is suspected, suspicion does not approximate to evidence.
According to the Prosecutors, a Committee on intelligence was established by the agency under the watch of Akpobolokemi with the second accused person, Capt. Agaba as chairman.” The committee allegedly received a total sum of N1,153,000,000(One Billion , One Hundred and Fifty Three Million Naira Only) between December 2013 to July 2015
“ In disbursing the sum, the accused persons allegedly conspired and hired companies which investigations were neither registered nor have requisite capacity to provide such services.
“ Investigations also disclosed that most of the companies contracted were either nominated by the accused persons or are directly owned by them”, the statement added.
According to one of the charges, Akpobolokemi conspired with the rest of the accused persons to commit the offense, which is punishable under the Money Laundering(Prohibition)Act of 2012.
After listening to the charges, the accused persons pleaded not guilty.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, prayed the court to remand the accused in prison and fix a date for trial.
But counsel representing the accused persons, however, filed for bail applications, praying the court to admit their clients to bail.
In opposing the bail application for the first accused person, Mr. Oyedepo filed a counter affidavit, praying the court not to grant the defendants’ application.
He argued that the first defendant had jumped the administrative bail granted to him by the anti-graft commission.
He further added that someone who could not honour administrative bail should not be trusted to honour bail granted by the court.
Mr. Oyedepo also told the court to refuse the bail applications of all the other accused persons based on the severity of the proof of evidence before it.
The presiding judge, however, admitted the first accused person to bail in the sum of N100, 000,000 and two sureties.
One of the sureties, the court said, must have a landed property in Lekki, Ikoyi or Victoria Island areas.
The other surety must either be on federal or state government employment not below the rank of director.
The other accused persons were granted bail in the sum of N50, 000,000 each with one surety in like sum.
According to the court, one of the sureties must be in either federal or state government employment not below level 16 and the other must have landed properties within Lagos.
Mr. Salihu therefore adjourned the case till January 29 for the commencement of trial.
He ordered that the accused persons be remanded in Ikoyi prison pending perfection of their bail terms.