Justice Ibrahim Nasir Buba of a Lagos Federal High Court, on Monday, warned lawyers representing former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, and five others not to make any attempt in truncating the trial of the accused persons.
Akpobolokemi and five accused persons which included Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba; Ekene Nwakuche; Governor Ameche Juan; Blockz and Stonez Nigeria Limited and Al-Kenzo Nigeria Limited, were arraigned before the court last Friday, by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on alleged theft of N2.6 billion.
They were however admitted to bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety each while the matter was adjourned for trial yesterday.
At the resumed trial of six accused persons yesterday, their lawyers which included Dr. Joseph Nwoboke, SAN, Madu Paschal, and Ige Asemugara, representing the first, second and fourth defendants gave different reasons for seeking for adjournment of the accused persons’ trial.
In seeking for adjournment, Dr. Nwobike, SAN, informed the court that his client, Dr. Akpobolokemi, was unable to perfect the bail conditions since Friday, and this made it impossible to confer with him.
He therefore urged the court for a very short adjournment which he said his client would have been able to meet the bail conditions and he would have been able to confer with him.
Counsel representing the second accused person in the case, Mr. Madu Paschal, in seeking for the adjournment of his client’s trial, said he was preparing for a burial, while the counsel representing the fourth accused person, Mr. Asemugara said he sought for an adjournment due to an application he had before the court.
Asemugara urged the court to first decide the application which was contending on the court’s jurisdiction to try the accused persons before taking any step on the matter.
And the lawyer representing the third, fifth and sixth accused persons, Mr. Lanre Olayinka, through a letter informed the court of his medical appointment abroad.
In responding to the submissions made by the accused persons’ lawyers, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, lawyer to the EFCC, urged the court to discontinuance the adjournment requests made by the accused persons’ lawyers, and commence the trial as fixed by the court.
But ruling on the adjournment sought by the accused persons, Justice Buba warned the lawyers to be aware of the provisions of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, which mandated day-to-day trial of criminal proceedings and not to do anything to frustrate the accused persons’ trial.
The judge said; “whether the defendants were able to perfect their bail should not stop the trial. The only issue is that the third is not represented by counsel.
“The court warned that counsels must be aware of provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which mandated day-to-day trial of criminal matter. The letter of the law for day-to-day trial will be followed strictly.”
The judge consequently adjourned the matter till December 14, for definite hearing.
Dr. Akpobolokemi and his co-accused persons were last Friday arraigned before Justice Buba led-court of Lagos Federal High Court, by the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on alleged stealing of N2.569, 457, 666. 60billion.
The accused persons in a charge marked FHC/L/511c/15 had on or about February 4, 2014 allegedly conspired among themselves to commit the act by converting the said sum, property of NIMASA, which was derived from stealing.
They were also alleged to have with intent to defraud conspired among themselves by inducing the Federal government of Nigeria to approve and deliver the said sum, under the false pretence that the said sum represented the cost for the implementation of the International Ship and Ports Security, ISPS, Code in Nigeria Ports.
The alleged offences, according to the anti-graft agency prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, are contrary to sections 15(1), 18(a) 8(a), 1(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under section 15(3) and 1(3) of the same Act.
In another criminal charged, Akpobolokemi and nine others were on last Thursday, arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu of the same court on a 30 count-charge of alleged theft of N3.4 billion.
Those charged alongside the former NIMASA boss before Justice Saliu Saidu led court are; Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba; Ekene Nwakuche; Felix Bob-Nabena; Captain Warredi Enisouh; Governor Amechee Juan; Ugo Frederick and Timi Alari Al-kenzo Limited and Penniel Engineering Services Limited.
Though, they all pleaded not guilty to the charges and admitted to different bail conditions, and ordered that they should all be remanded in prisons custody pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions, while adjourned the case till January 29, 2016, for trial.