Security agents yesterday re-arrested a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Akpobolokemi outside the Federal High Court premises in Lagos moments after his trial for allegedly defrauding the Federal Government was adjourned.
Policemen and plain clothes operatives swopped on him and bundled him into a waiting bus soon after Justice Ibrahim Buba adjourned trial to January 18.
Akpobolokemi’s re-arrest is linked to fresh allegations of fraud of about N12, 905, 485.000 meant for a maritime university.
Of the sum, N11,737,854,485.00 was allegedly paid into a company suspected to be owned by Chief Government Oweize Ekpemopolo a.k.a Tompolo. He is also said to have diverted N816 million meant for the Voluntary International Maritime Organisation Members State Audit (VIMSAS).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Akpobolokemi and three others on charges of converting N2.6billion as well as defrauding the Federal Government to the tune of N795.2million.
The others are Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, and three companies, namely Blockz and Stonz Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.
In a 22-count charge, they were accused of converting N2,658,957,666 between December 23, 2013 and May 28 this year. The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
Akpobolokemi and nine others, including two companies, were earlier arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu of the same court on a separate charge of conspiring among themselves to convert N3.4billion belonging to NIMASA. They also pleaded not guilty.
It was learnt that Akpobolokemi, dressed in white, was released from prison custody at the weekend after perfecting the bail conditions imposed on him by Justice Buba.
There was a mild drama as the operatives made to grab him as he left the courtroom. The defendant resisted the move, claiming that he was on bail.
But the security agents, who ignored his protests, overpowered and bundled him into a waiting bus to the bemusement of onlookers.
Effort by his lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), to intervene and prevent his client’s re-arrest was unsuccessful.
Justice Buba adjourned because three of the accused persons’ lawyer, Mr. Seni Adio, said he had just been briefed. He sought more time to study the case file.
“I don’t even have a copy of the charge; I have no document whatsoever,” Adio said.
Agaba’s lawyer, N.O. Balogun, also sought an adjournment, saying he was also only briefed over the weekend, after the former counsel, Mr. Madu Paschal, withdrew his representation on the grounds that he was planning a burial ceremony.
EFCC’s lawyer Festus Keyamo urged the court to reject the applications for an adjournment in line with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
“This is one of the issues that this new law seeks to arrest: the law allows the court to take full control of its proceedings and not allow unnecessary delays at the instance of lawyers,” Keyamo said.
But Justice Buba said considering new documents which the prosecution served on the defendants, and the fact that Adio deserved time to study the case file, he would adjourn.