By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the Chairmanship of the Kebbi state born Abdulrasheed Bawa, has left Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, off the hook, would be disappointed.
This is because Bawa, the EFCC, boss, who, on assumption of duties, has vowed to file fresh cases in Court has kept to his words. The antiigraft agency may have known that the former NIMASA, boss has a case to answer that the case has dragged on since 2014 and now. Between July 2021 and now, the case was said to have been adjourned more
Given an insider information on how suspects are dragged to Court, Bawa, the EFCC, Chairman, had said that there are several factors involved. According to him, ‘’the suspects are thoroughly investigated, and on the completion of the investigation, the Commission’s Lawyers are expected go through the case file, vet it and analyse it and indicate whether there is a case before it will go ahead to develop charges and file case in Court’’. This is an indications that Akpobolokemi, the former Chief Executive Office, CEO, of NIMASA and the three other persons allegedly involved in fraud in the agency and money Laundering were thoroughly investigated.
Many believe that the present EFCC, Chairman, may be finding it easy in ensuring that suspects are thoroughly investigated before heading to Court because he has been at the agency from the beginning, ‘’rising through the ranks from ordinary team Leaders , sectional Head to head of various zones of the Commission and to be appointed the first non-police chairman of the Commission by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General.
Take for instance, he was part of the Team, that was said to have investigated Diezani Allinson Madueke, a former minister of Petroleum Resources, during the Administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.The former NIMASA CEO, may have known that he is in trouble, alongside Emmanuel Atewe, a retired army Major, who incidentally was a former Commander of the Joint Military Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, King Engozu and Josephine Otuaga, when they were investigated by the Commission and dragged to Court over alleged involvement in a N8.5 billion fraud and money Laundering in 2014.
Akpbolokemi and the three other suspects, who are currently standing trial at an Ikoyi High Court, were said to have been roped into the case because of available evidence before the Commission, particular, the shared Correspondences between the anti-graft agency and Zenith Ban,that was said to have been very damning. The foursome were said to have been used the new generation Bank to commit the fraud.
The Commission, which had come back alive under Bawa, since February, 2021,was said to have identified some evidence the Ikoyi High Court on Tuesday, November 16, 2021, including the Account opening package, Statements of Account, and the Instruments of Transaction used to perpetrate the alleged fraud. The Statements were aid to have emanated from Zenith Bank plc, where Gdwin Emefiele, the present governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had served as a one-time Managing Director.
In appearing before the Court, the Commission had said that Akpobolokemi, and the three other persons standing trial, sometimes in 2014, in Lagos, with the intent to defraud, had conspired among themselves to commit an offence to wit: conversion of the sum of N8,537,586,798.5, property of NIMASA, to personal use ‘’thereby committed an offence contrary section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition ) Act 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
The Court may have resumed hearing on the case because the foursome had pleaded ‘’not guilty to the charges levelled against them by the Commission. At the Tuesday, November 16, 2021, hearing, Rotimi Oyedepo, the Prosecuting Consul , was said to have presented the seventh witness (PW7), one Moses Ngbekan, a Compliance officer with Zenith Bank plc.
Note that Akpobolokemi, the former NIMASA boss, and the three others were said to be standing trial on a 22 counts charge bordering on money laundering before Justice Ayokunle Faaji of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria. The erstwhile, Director General of the maritime regulatory agency may have heaved sigh of relief when the case was adjourned till Wednesday, November 17, 2021, for continuation of the trial.
Prior to the resumption of Akpobolokemi, the former NIMASA helmsman trial, the EFCC, had already secured judgment in the trial of Mrs. Madueke, the former minister of Petroleum Resources. It was said to have also secured judgment on Farouk Lawan, a former House adhoc Committee Chairman on Petroleum subsidy who was sentenced to a seven years imprisonment by an Abuja High Court on a three counts charge ‘’for soliciting bribe to remove Femi Otedola and his Company from the list of Companies that were allegedly involved in fuel subsidy fraud. It was said to have been established in counts one that he had demanded $3million bribe from Zenon. In count two, he was said to have collected the sum of $500,000 as bribe to remove Otedola and his Company, Zenon from the list of persons and Compannies indicted for the fuel subsidy scam.
The latest to be jailed in the high profile cases handled by the Bawa led EFCC was Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman, Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, during Jonathan’s Administration, over alleged Laundering of N2 billion pension fund. Maina, the former PRTT, Chairman, and his Company, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, were said to have been convicted on all 12 counts Charge filed against them by the Commission, by the trial Judge Justice Okon Abang who handed eight year jail term to him .
Given that the EFCC, have never lost any case under its current Leadership because it has its facts on suspects is an indications that Akpobolokemi, the former NIMASA boss, and the three others may be heading to Jail. His composure when his case was called up for hearing at the Ikoyi, Federal High Court, clearly shows that he has lost hope of being freed despite pleading not guilty to charges as the EFCC, have all the facts to nail them.
The trial of Akpobolokemi, the former NIMASA, boss, should serve as a lesson to CEOs, of other government agencies and Paratstatals, that their activities while in office the office are being scrutinised on a daily basis and that they should prepare their mind that they may be called upon at any time to give account of their stewardship by the Commission when they are relieved of their appointment to answer to petitions that may be hanging on their neck.