The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has discharged and acquitted Ziadeke Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), who was charged with an alleged fraud of N2.6bn.
In a lead judgment on Friday by Justice Yargatta Nimpar, a three-man appellate court panel unanimously upheld the no-case submission filed by Akpolokemi in response to the criminal charges.
The Appeal Court overruled the decision of Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos who, in October 2017, dismissed Akpobolokemi's no-case submission.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on December 4, 2015 arraigned Akpobolokemi alongside five others for allegedly diverting N2.6bn from the coffers of NIMASA between December 2013 and May 2014.
The funds, the anti-graft agency claimed, were approved by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan for the implementation of a security project, tagged 'International Ship and Ports Security Code in Nigerian Ports'.
Those charged with Akpolokemi were Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistics Limited.
The six defendants had all pleaded not guilty to the 22 charges pressed against them, following which the EFCC opened its case, calling 12 witnesses and tendering 77 exhibits in a bid to prove the allegation.
Upon the closure of the EFCC's case in 2017, all the defendants had filed no-case submissions, contending that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
But Justice Buba, in an October 16, 2017 ruling, dismissed their no-case submissions, holding that they had a case to answer.
Justice Buba had held that, "From the evidence of the first prosecution witness, it is well established that all the defendants have case to answer; the exhibits tendered and the testimonies of other witnesses have established that there is a prima facie case against the defendants."
Displeased, however, they all went on appeal; and in a judgment on Friday, the Court of Appeal discharged an acquitted Akpobolokemi of the entire 22 counts.
However, the five other defendants were not discharged, as the appellate court upheld Justice Buba's verdict that they had a case to answer.