Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has dismissed the no case submission filed by a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi.
Akpobolokemi and five others were charged for N2.6 billion fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Buba said that the arguments on the no-case submission by the defense counsel, Joseph Nwobike (SAN) cannot hold water at this stage of trial because the prosecuting Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, has establish a prima-facie case against the defendants. He therefore ordered the defendants to start defense immediately.
The presiding judge consequently fixed October 30 - 31 for defendants to open their case for defense.
The EFCC, on December 4, 2015, arraigned Akpobolokemi, alongside Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, and two companies - Blockz and Stonz Ltd. and Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd - on a 22-count charge for allegedly diverting N2.6 billion from the coffers of NIMASA between December 2013, and May 2015, an offense to which the defendants pleaded not guilty.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the funds were approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project.
Oyedepo subsequently opened the case for trial during which he called 12 witnesses and tendered 77 exhibits in a bid to establish its case.
The prosecution argued that the testimonies of the 12 witnesses and the 77 exhibits tendered had successfully linked Akpobolokemi to the alleged fraud.
He said that being the head and chief accounting officer of NIMASA at the time of the alleged fraud, Akpobolokemi could not by any stretch of imagination claim to be innocent.
The EFCC lawyer stated that even if it was the former president that approved the security project, Akpobolokemi was the head of NIMASA at the time, who constituted a committee to handle the project and also approved funds.
However, Nwobike contended that the EFCC failed to link his client with the alleged diversion of funds from NIMASA.
Mr. Nwobike pointed out that his signature to such effect was never shown to the court.
He said that the first accused could not be held liable because he did not approve the security project and the money disbursed.
The defense lawyer also described the evidence given against the accused by the prosecution witness as mere hearsay, which he said, had no legal weight before the court.
He, therefore, urged the court to come to the conclusion that the first accused could not be called upon to enter any defense because no prima-facie case had been established against him.
In the 22-count charge, the EFCC alleged that the accused induced the federal government to approve and deliver to NIMASA N795 million under the false pretense that the sum represented the cost for the implementation of the Security Code in Nigeria.
These alleged offenses contravene Section 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.