Justice Raliat Adebiyi of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, has asked the former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, and Ezekiel Bala Agaba, a former Executive Director of the agency to open their defence in an alleged N754.8 million fraud allegations levelled against them.
Justice Adebiyi gave the order in her ruling on the no-case submission filed by the defendants which the judge dismissed for lack of merit
Akpobolokemi and Agaba, who are alleged to have defrauded NIMASA, were initially charged alongside Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Ekene Nwakuche, Adegboyega Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd., before the charge was amended to involve only both of them.
The defendants had through their respective lawyers, Collins Ogbonna and Emmanuel Onyeke on March 24, 2023 separately adopted the final written addresses of their clients.
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They urged the court to uphold the no-case submissions and to hold that the prosecution has not made a prima facie case against the defendants that would necessitate them taking to the dock to defend themselves.
In response, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, SAN, countered their arguments and urged the court to rely on the evidence placed before the court by the prosecution and the testimony of the 12 witnesses called, and to dismiss the no-case submissions of the defendants as lacking in merit.
“The evidence before my lord establishes the essential ingredients of conspiracy, stealing and forgery, adding that even “the second defendant admitted the essential ingredients of the offence both the conspiracy to steal, the conspiracy to forge documents”.
He therefore, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submissions as lacking in merit, and to order the defendants to open their defence as “they have a lot of explanations to make”.
Delivering ruling on the no-case submissions of the defendants, Justice Adebiyi ruled that the prosecution has made a prima facie case against the two NIMASA executives on counts two, three, four, five and seven bordering on stealing, warranting them to enter the dock to tell their own side of the story.
The trial judge further held that prima facie case had been made against the second defendant on counts nine, 10, 11 and 12 bordering on forgery. They were however discharged and acquitted on counts one, six and eight bordering on conspiracy.
The case has been adjourned till September 19 and 20, 2023 for defence.