Ex-NIMASA DG, Dr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi.

At last, reprieve today, came the way of a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi as a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, has discharged and acquitted him of any wrong doing over an alleged N8.5billion (N8,537,586,798. 58 billion) fraud brought against him by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC.

It would be recall that Dr. Akpobolokemi was arraigned before the court alongside Major-General Emmanuel Atewe (rtd), a former Commander of the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, and two other staff of the agency, Kime Engonzu and Josphine Otuaga.

Presiding Justice Ayokunle Faji while delivering a ruling on Monday, April 22, 2024, upheld a no-case submission filed by the former NIMASA DG and four other defendants in a 22-count charge against them and therefore discharged and acquitted them.

Justice Faji had in discharging and acquitting the former DG of NIMASA and one other member of staff of the agency, one Josephine Otuaga, held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie (sufficient evidence) case against them.

However, he ruled that a former Commander of the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, Major-General Emmanuel Atewe (rtd), (second defendant), and a Staff of NIMASA, Kime Engonzu (third defendant), have to open their defence because they have a case to answer in counts 12 to 22 of the charge.

Akpobolokemi had in a no-case submission filed by hiscounsel, Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN leading with Collins Ogbonna, prayed the court for an acquittal without having him present a defence.

He told the court that the prosecutor, the EFCC, with all its witnesses and evidences tendered while making its case, failed to link the ex-NIMASA DG to the alleged crimes.

The defendants are being prosecuted for an amended 22-count charge bordering on conspiracy; conversion; and stealing (by fraudulent conversion).

One of the counts reads: “That you, Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, Major General Emmanuel Atewe, Kime Engozu, and Josphine Otuaga sometime in 2014, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Court, with intent to defraud, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: Conversion of the sum of N8,537,586,798.58 property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”

They had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, thereby prompting the commencement of their trial.

Upon conclusion of the prosecution’s case, all the defendants opted for no-case submission.

Delivering his ruling, Justice Faji held that none of the witnesses called by the prosecution led any shred of evidence linking the first defendant, Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, and the fourth defendant to the offences they were charged for.

The court held that having regard to the totality of evidence led by the prosecution failed to provide any credible evidence linking the first defendant with the commission of the crimes alleged against him in Counts 1-11 of the first amended Charge and/or established a prima facie case against him warranting him to enter upon his defence.

The court also noted that out of the 11 witnesses fielded by the complainant, only one witness, (PW 2), gave evidence where the name of the first defendant (Akpobolokemi) featured, while other witnesses made it abundantly clear that, they did not know the first defendant and did not have any dealings with him.

“If there is no sufficient evidence linking the accused with the statutory elements and ingredients a court of trial must as a matter of law discharge him. It has no business searching for evidence what is nowhere and therefore cannot be found,” the court held finally.