Nearly a decade after his prosecution and trial, a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos Monday discharged and acquitted the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Patrick Ziakade Akpobolokemi over an alleged N8.5 billion fraud brought against him by the anti-graft government agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Relief and reprieve came for the erstwhile helmsman of NIMASA when Justice Ayokunle Faji discharged and acquitted him in his judgment.

The judge hinged his judgment on a no-case submission filed by Akpobolokemi and four defendants in a 22-count charge against them by the anti-graft agency.

Maritime Bits checks revealed that the former NIMASA Director General who was prior to his appointment by former President Goodluck Jonathan was a lecturer at the Bayelsa State owned Niger Delta University (NDU), Wilberforce Island, Amasoma was arraigned before the court alongside the former Commander of the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield, Major-General Emmanuel Atewe (retired) and two other employees of NIMASA, Kime Engonzu and Josphine Otuaga.

While discharging and acquitting the former NIMASA helmsman and Otuaga, Justice Faji held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

The other accused persons, Atewe and Engonzu did not however get any reprieve as Justice Faji ruled that they have to open their defence in court.

According to the judge, Atewe and Engonzu have a case to answer in counts 12 to 22 of the charge.

Maritime Bits had reported that the former NIMASA chief executive officer (CEO) had in a no-case submission filed by his lawyers, Joseph Nwobike, SAN and Collins Ogbonna prayed the court for an acquittal without having him present a defence in the first place.

Akpobolokemi argued that the prosecution with all its witnesses and evidence tendered failed to link him to the crimes he was alleged to have committed while in office as the CEO of the specialized government agency.

Among other things, Akpobolokemi and the other defendants were being prosecuted for an amended 22-count charge bordering on conspiracy conversion and stealing of government funds.

“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”, one of the counts reads.

However, Akpobolokemi and the other defendants had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, thereby prompting the commencement of their trial. It is on record that upon conclusion of the prosecution’s case, all the defendants opted for no-case submission.

Apparently giving an insight for the basis of his judgment, Justice Faji held that none of the witnesses called by the prosecution presented any shred of evidence linking the first defendant, Akpobolokemi and the fourth defendant to the offences they were charged for.

The Federal High 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.

It also noted that out of the 11 witnesses fielded by the prosecution, only one witness gave evidence where Akpobolokemi’s name featured while other witnesses made it abundantly clear that they did not known the first defendant and did not have any dealings with him whatsoever.

His words: “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 that is nowhere and therefore cannot be found.”


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