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NIMASA paid Fashion designer N546million for doing nothing – Witness

Written by Maritime First
  • FG threatens to scrap NIMASA over massive fraud, indolence

A prosecution witness has told a stunned Federal High Court how his account was credited with N546.8million by an official of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) even though he had no business relationship with the Federal agency.

Chukwuemeka Benjamin Onuoha, a fashion designer revealed this on Tuesday as the theft trial of former NIMASA boss Patrick Akpobolokemi continued.
Onuoha while being led in evidence by the EFCC prosecutor Rotimi Oyedepo said his company, Extreme Vertevex Limited was used as conduit pipe to siphon over N546,802,000 million from the coffers of NIMASA for a contract that was not awarded to him or executed by him.
He was the second prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of the former NIMASA boss, Patrick Akpobolokemi and six others over alleged theft of N2.6 billion belonging to NIMASA.

Akpobolokemi was arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba along with three others – 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 twenty- two count charge filed before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), they were accused of converting a total of N2, 658,957,666 between December 23, 2013 and May 28 this year. The accused pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Onuoha told the court that N546,802,000 million was paid into his account with Zenith bank even though he did not tender any proposal or carried out any contract for NIMASA.
He further told the court that the disbursement of the money was facilitated by the third accused (Ekene Nwakuche) who was his secondary school mate.

He narrated in a graphic details of how he received the money. Sometimes in 2013 when Nwakuche was employed by NIMASA, he approached him and pleaded with him to ‘remember him’ if there was any contract he could implement. Shortly after he made the request, Nwakuche called him on phone to enquire if he had any registered company that could be used for transactions as well as the company’s accounts.
Onuoha narrated further that not too long after he supplied details of his company and his bank account to Nwakuche that, he received several alerts from his bank totaling N546,802,000 million.
On August 2014 he received N21, 802, 000, on November 6, 2014; he received the sum of N318 million and on November 25, 2014 he received alert of N207 million into his account.
He further stated that when he inquired from him on what the money was meant for, he was told to wait for further instructions.

Onuoha told the court that he was later instructed to transfer the money to different accounts by Nwakuche
Under cross examination, by Dr. Joseph Nwobike SAN, counsel to the first accused Patrick Akpobolokemi, Onuoha told the court that he had never met Akpobolokemi or received any instruction from him.

Also testifying today, a Bureau De Change operator, Hussein Sabo said on March 2014 he was approached by one Muhammed Darlington who told him that the second accused person (Captain Ezekiel Agaba) wanted to buy dollars,
Sabo in his testimony said ‘’Darlington collected my account numbers and several millions of naira were paid into the account which I used to buy dollars.
Sabo also confirmed that on March 3, 2014, monies were paid into his account namely, N33, 800,000; N35, 000,000; N20, 000,000 and N3, 000,000 respectively.
He also disclosed that between the month of March 2014 and December 2014 he received through his account, N85, 305,000, N155, 300,000, N13, 000,000, N10, 000,000, and N84, 000, 000 respectively.

Justice Buba thereafter adjourned further hearing in the suit till February 2,5, 16 and 19 respectively when EFCC is expected to call more witnesses.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Tuesday said that it was considering a move to scrap the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) due to what it called massive fraud in the commission.

The Minister of Transport, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, who stated this while in a meeting with the Senate Committee Marine transport, said that the government may be forced to approach the National Assembly to repeal the Act setting up NIMASA.

He said that there was nothing to show for the N63billion revenue invested in NIMASA in 2015.

He cited an instance where he discovered that there was no equipment at the agency’s search and rescue unit meant to monitor movement of vessels and provide treatment for injured personnel.

According to him “Currently, the way NIMASA is, if you look at it very well, it was worse in the last administration. It was as if it was established just for the purpose of collecting money and nothing more. What we need to do is to ensure that NIMASA discharges its core responsibilities.

“If NIMASA failed to outsource its core responsibility then it has no business existing. If it is just to collect money from individuals, anybody can do that. We can hire a tax collector to collect money from maritime operators on behalf of Federal Ministry of transport.

“So it is either NIMASA sit up and carry out its own responsibility or we come to the National Assembly to repeal the Act setting it up and allow the department of marine security in the Ministry of Transportation, discharge the responsibility currently being discharged by NIMASA.

We are not going ahead with the university project proposed by NIMASA because we have an institution in Oron, we have Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria, and we have the Nigerian College of Aviation in Zaria which we could upgrade to a university status and NIMASA is proposing to build a new one.

“Who will attend the university? How many parents will allow their children to go to such place where it proposes to site the university? What is the aim of the university that we cannot achieve in Oron where they have the necessary infrastructure.

“I don’t think we are proceeding with the university being proposed by NIMASA because it is a waste of resources, and unfortunately a lot of money had already been released for the university project, hence there is no structure on ground but just the feasibility study.

“Whoever is holding on to the money should better return it. The Chinese company contracted confirmed that only the feasibility study was in place.”

Upshot with additional report from Tribune

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Maritime First