Justice R.I.B. Adebiyi of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has adjourned till February 27 and 28, 2024 an alleged N754.8 million fraud against a former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and former Executive Director, NIMASA, Ezekiel Bala Agaba.
Akpobolokemi and Agaba alleged to have defrauded NIMASA, were initially charged alongside Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Ekene Nwakuche, Adegboyega Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd., before the charge was amended to involve only both of them.
When the prosecution closed its case, the defendants through their respective lawyers, Collins Ogbonna and E.D. Onyeke, filed no-case submissions.
However, on May 8, 2023 while ruling on the no-case submissions of the defendants, Justice Adebiyi held that the prosecution had made a prima facie case against the two defendants on counts two, three, four, five and seven bordering on stealing.
The trial Judge further held that a prima facie case had been made against the second defendant on counts nine, 10, 11 and 12 bordering on forgery. Though discharged and acquitted on counts one, six and eight bordering on conspiracy, the trial judge ordered them to open their defence on the remaining counts.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, counsel for the first defendant, Charles Okechukwu, told the court that the defence would not be able to open its defence. “We’ve written an application for adjournment though we know that today is slated for defence, but the defence witnesses that we intended to present, are unavailable for the trial,” he said.
He explained further that one of the witnesses was bereaved and had travelled for the obsequies. “One of the witnesses lost his mother and the service of songs takes place tomorrow, so he is not in Lagos but in Bayelsa,” he said.
He also told the court that the other witness the defence intended to call was also “not available”. Additionally, he told the court that a letter had also been written to the prosecution informing them of the development and so applied for adjournment to subsisting dates.
The prosecuting counsel, S.I. Suleiman, confirmed receipt of the said letter. “We were served with the said letter yesterday and in the interest of justice, we will not object,” he said.
Counsel for the second defendant, Grace Omole, also raised no objection.
Thereafter, Justice Adebiyi adjourned “to the earlier fixed dates of 27th and 28th February 2024 for continuation of trial”.
The defendants were originally arraigned on twelve –count charges bordering on stealing and forgery to the tune of N754.8 million.
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