It has been revealed, before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos, of how former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and his co-accused used the account of a fashion designer, Chukwuemeka Benjamin Onuoha, to channel over N546,802,000 million from the coffers of the agency.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission commenced trial of the former NIMASA boss, alongside five others, in a N2.3 billion charge leveled against them by the anti-graft agency.
The others who were arraigned alongside Akpobolokemi are: Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Blockz and Stonz Ltd, Kenzo Logistics Ltd and Al-Kenzo Logistic Ltd on a 22-count charge of illegal diversion.
The defendants are being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for allegedly converting to their personal use a total of N2,658,957, 666, belonging to NIMASA between December 23, 2013 and May 28, 2015. They pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
They were on December 4, 2015 arraigned on 22 counts in relation to the offence before Justice Ibrahim Buba.
So far,the court has had three witnesses presented and they are Teslim Adekunle, a compliance officer with the Zenith Bank Plc, Chukwuemeka Benjamin, a fashion designer and Usaini Sabo, a bureau de change operator testifying against the accused.
In his own testimony, Adekunle, who appeared before the court on Monday, explained that between August and October 2015, his bank received nine requests from EFCC in respect of the following accounts: Southern Offshore Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited, Aroward Consulting Limited, Avant Guard Security Solution, Green Lemon Limited, Ace Prosthesis Limited, O2 Services Limited, Suco Global Limited, and the Committee on International Shipping and Port Security (ISPS).
According to Adekunle, money flowed into accounts of these companies from the account of the Committee on ISPS. The witness tendered a bundle of documents he identified as the request letters from EFCC, response from his bank, and the statement of accounts in question.
After reviewing and explaining the contents of the exhibit, prosecuting counsel Rotimi Oyedepo asked the witness to explain the procedure for cash lodgement and disbursement in his bank and the witness said, all funds were disbursed based on instructions of the customer, either in the banking hall to conduct his transaction or by use of internet banking.
On Tuesday at the resumed hearing, the second witness, Chukwuemeka Benjamin, an acclaimed fashion designer and general manager of one of the companies that allegedly benefited from the disbursements from the ISPS, gave his testimony.
He told the court how his company, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited received the total sum of over N546 million from NIMASA for a service that was never executed.
The witness told the court that he and the third accused person, Ekene Nwakuche, were secondary school mates, who facilitated the disbursement of these money.
He further told the court that he approached Nwakuche when he learned that he had a job with NIMASA and asked him if there was any contract available that he could handle.
Thereafter, Benjamin said Nwakuche started giving him some business, and the first came through a credit alert of N21.2 million from NIMASA.
The witness said he asked for the purpose of the lodgement in his account but Nwakuche only told him to hold on that he was awaiting instructions from his boss, the second accused, Captain Ezekiel Agaba.
Benjamin told the court that after a while, Nwakuche provided him with some specific account numbers and instructed him to transfer the said money into the accounts provided.
The witness also told the court that sometime in November 2014, he received another inflow of the sum of N318 million from NIMASA with the same instruction to transfer the sum into certain account numbers provided by Nwakuche.
The last lodgement the witness received from NIMASA was for the sum of N207million with the same instructions of moving it into some specified account numbers.
The witness denied having any contractual agreement between his company and NIMASA when asked by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo.
The Third witness, Usaini Sabo, led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo told the court that he operated as a middleman between buyers and sellers in Bureau De Change (BDC).
In his account, he told the court that he received the sum of N40 million in two transactions through Avant Guard Security Solution, one of the aforementioned companies.
Sabo also testified that he received the total sum of N238.8 million from Southern Offshore Limited.
When the counsel for the second accused person asked him again if he had a licence to conduct his business, Sabo told the court that as an agent, he doesn’t require licence to conduct his business.
Justice Ibrahim Buba adjourned the case to February 2, 5, 16, and 19, 2016, for continuation of trial.