How NIMASA funds were diverted through contractor –Witness
04 May b2016, Lagos – A Compliance Officer with Access Bank Plc, Mr. Oliver Ewerem, on Tuesday told the court how a contractor, Gama Marine Nigerian Limited, was used to divert N60m out of the funds meant for an audit exercise in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.
Ewerem appeared on Tuesday as a witness before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of a Lagos State High Court in Igbosere, where a former Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, is standing trial along with six others over an alleged fraud of N754.7m.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alleged that the defendants diverted N754.7m meant for the implementation of Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme at NIMASA.
Standing trial along with Akpobolokemi are Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Adegboyega Olopoenia and Gama Marine Nigeria Limited.
They were arraigned on January 25, 2016, but they all pleaded not guilty to the 13 counts pressed against them.
Ewerem was the second witness that the EFCC fielded in its bid to prove the allegations.
Led in evidence on Tuesday by the EFCC’s counsel, I. A. Muhammed, Ewerem testified that N67.45m was paid by NIMASA on February 2, 2015, into an Access Bank account belonging to Gama Marine Nigerian Limited, which was supposed to be a contractor to the agency.
According to him, the money was paid into the contractor’s account in two tranches of N28m and N39.45m.
Ewerem, however, said between February 10 and 11, 2015, there were withdrawals amounting to N60m from Gama Marine Nigerian Limited’s account in favour of Vincent Udoye, who is the 5th defendant in the charge filed by the EFCC.
While fielding questions under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Ewerem, however, admitted that Akpobolokemi and others, except Udoye, did not benefit from the money paid into Gama Marine Nigerian Limited’s account.
Justice Adebiyi adjourned till Wednesday (today) for continuation of trial.
The charge, marked LD/2181C/15, bordering on stealing and forgery, was the fifth that the EFCC filed against Akpobolokemi after his appointment was terminated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In one of the counts, Akpobolokemi and his alleged accomplices were accused of fraudulently converting to their personal use a sum of N346,844,680 released to them by NIMASA for the implementation of the Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Member State Audit Scheme.
They were also accused of forging a document titled, ‘Re: Request For Payment as consultant for VIMSA Administration Services,’ dated May 25, 2015, purported to have been issued by Aroward Consulting Limited with an intent to commit fraud.
The offences were said to be contrary to Section 409 and punishable under Section 285 (1) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2011.