25 April 2016, Lagos – The trial of ex-Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi, and nine others for alleged N3.4bn fraud has been further stalled.
The accused were charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Though they were arraigned on December 3, last year, the court has yet to take the testimony of the first prosecution witness, nearly five months after.
The case had initially been bogged down on February 18, after the defence team raised an objection to the tendering and admissibility of the first exhibit sought to be tendered by the prosecution through its first witness, Teslim Adekunle, a Compliance Officer with Zenith Bank Plc.
After taking arguments from counsel on both sides, Justice Saidu had adjourned till March 22 to deliver ruling.
Upon the delivery of ruling on March 22, the case rather than proceed was again adjourned till Monday, April 25 at the request of the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo.
But at the resumed proceedings on Monday, though Akpobolokemi and his co-accused persons had stepped into the dock, a lawyer from Keyamo’s chamber, Somadina Okorie, however told the judge that the trial would not go on as his principal was in Abuja for another trial.
Okorie told the judge that he had already discussed with the defence counsel and the parties had agreed to an adjournment.
In the circumstance, the judge further adjourned the case till June 9.
Akpobolokemi and others were arraigned before Justice Saidu on December 3, 2015.
A day after, being December 4, 2015, some of the accused were again arraigned on a separate charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the same court.
As of last week, the EFCC had already called 12 witnesses in the case before Justice Buba, while the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, had indicated that he might close his case after the 12th witness to allow the accused persons to open their defence.
In the case before Justice Saidu, Akpobolokemi and nine others were accused of conspiring among themselves to convert to their personal use a sum of N3.4bn belonging to NIMASA.
They were said to have committed the alleged offence between December 2013 and July 2015.
The EFCC accused them of contravening Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition/Amendment) Act of 2012, and said they were liable to punishment under Section 15 (3).
But they pleaded not guilty and were admitted to bail.
Standing trial alongside Akpobolokemi are Capt. Ezekiel Agaba; Ekene Nwakuche; Felix Bob-Nabena; Capt. Warredi Enisouh; Governor Juan; Ugo Frederick and Timi Alari.
They were charged alongside two companies – Al-kenzo Limited and Penniel Engineering Services Limited.