Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, may have indicated its readiness to commence a full scale investigation into the alleged financial impropriety and high level mismanagement presently rocking the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron.
This followed the Rector, Joshua Ekpo’s inability to provide satisfactory explanation to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on how he spent the sum of N13 billion remitted into the coffers of the institution under his watch by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, since 2011.
The ICPC Head of Investigation, Adedayo Kayode said the commission was now aware of the alleged financial sleaze in the maritime institution through intelligence reports but wished that formal petitions from members of the public can be made in respect of the controversial issue to enable the anti-corruption agency swing into action.
“Presently, the commission is ready to investigate the matter but only when the aggrieved parties petition the body which will give us the legitimacy to beam our searchlight on the institution’’, the ICPC chief investigator declared.
The anti-graft agency therefore urged Nigerians and any agency of government who could help the commission with detailed document and petitions on finances of the academy to come forward with it.
“It will be more concrete if more information is dug out and sent to us. Based on section 6 (a) of the Act establishing the commission‎, when we receive petition, we swing into action and based on intelligence gathered over the alleged financial recklessness at the academy, we will work on it but it will be easier for speedy action when there are specifics on a particular project or a year of which the fraud is committed.”
It would be recalled that the Rector of the academy had been enmeshed in series of financial misappropriation by both some youths in the community where the academy was situated and the management of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
Okpo allegedly got into trouble when the Minister was told by the Acting Director-General of NIMASA, Haruna Jauro that the agency has remitted over N18billion to the Academy since 2009.
At the enquiry of the Minister, Mr. Okpo said he only took over in 2011 to which NIMASA declared that a sum of N13billion was remitted to the institution since the Rector took over.
Alarmed by the quantum of the funds, the Minister was said to have become livid with Okpo whom he said has told him ‘lies’ about the true situation of the disbursement.
When asked to explain what he has done with that huge sum against the backdrop of lack of physical infrastructural development of the institution, Okpo was said to have given inconsistent and incoherent answers, prompting the ordering of an immediate audit of all the amounts said to have been remitted to the institution since 2009.
In addition, Amaechi has decided, along- side NIMASA management staff and relevant ministry officials, to commence on the –spot- assessment of the facilities at the Academy in a bid to ascertain to what use the enormous amount received by the Rector was put.
It was also learnt that Mr. Okpo gave a commercial bank account details to receive the one billion naira last quarter subvention contrary to the spirit of Treasury Single Account, TSA policy.
‘’Just like all the government agencies, MAN, Oron has its TSA number yet the Rector decided to use unauthorized bank account details to receive last quarter subvention. This was what was responsible for the delay in the release of the last quarter remittance which we have now released after he provided the necessary and legally recognized bank details’’, another source disclosed.
Okpo was also accused of spending over N10 million to organize Christmas jamboree last year immediately NIMASA released over N700m to the Academy last year as part of the agency’s statutory quarterly allocation to the academy.
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has alleged that there was a plot to frustrate the trial of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
He and three others were arraigned last Friday before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court.
They were accused of converting N2.6 billion as well as defrauding the Federal Government to the tune of N795.2 million.
Their trial was billed to begin yesterday, but counsel for the third defendant, Lanre Olayinka, was absent.
He wrote the court, saying he travelled abroad for an urgent medical treatment.
But EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, said Olayinka’s absence was a ploy to delay the trial.
“My learned friend did not provide sufficient explanation. There is nothing stating the whereabouts of other lawyers in his chambers.
“When the case was adjourned last Friday, he never mentioned that he planned to travel or that he booked a ticket.
“This is a clear manifestation of the defendant’s determination not to allow this matter to go on,” he said.
Oyedepo urged the court not to grant an adjournment, saying he was ready to go on with the case having brought two of his witnesses.
However, Akpobolokemi’s lawyer, Dr. Joseph Nwobike, SAN, said he needed more time to discuss with his client.
“The point is that it will be difficult to represent the first defendant when I have not conferred with him,” he said.
Ruling, Justice Buba said the “days of luxury” for the judge, lawyers and defendants during trials were over.
“You cannot delay this trial. You can take it to another court, but you cannot stall the trial in this court. If anybody is not comfortable, let me return the case file to the Chief Judge,” he said.
“Whether the defendants are able to perfect their bail terms or not, it should not affect the trial of this case, because even if an accused is not granted bail, he can still prepare his case.
“It is fair enough that this court, conscious of the day-to-day trial, granted bail to all the accused without any formality. Notwithstanding the non-perfection of the bail condition, this court would have gone on with the trial.
“The only snag is that third accused is not represented. Olayinka’s letter to this court is of no moment because he was in court with Mr. Shamsudeen Abubakar last Friday when this matter was adjourned till today (yesterday).
“This court must warn that any counsel who takes up a defence of an accused must come to terms with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which has limited the number of adjournments to not more than five times.
“Similarly, the case of counsel abandoning an accused in court is also gone. While the court will not wait for Mr. Lanre Olayinka, the court will afford the third accused an opportunity of getting another counsel. Where he cannot, there is also a provision (for the court to provide a lawyer).

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