NIMASA ex-boss fails to stop trial over alleged fraud
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00 By Bertram Nwannekanma News – National
A FEDERAL High Court in Lagos yesterday gave the prosecution one week within which to continue with the case against former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Omatseye, or get the charge dismissed.
Subsequently, the judge, Justice Binta Nyako, rejected Omatseye’s application seeking dismissal of the charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court’s deadline followed alleged lack of seriousness on the part of the prosecution to prosecute the suit against Omatseye, which prompted the accused to seek dismissal of the charge against him.
The accused person had through his counsel, Olusina Sofola (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the charge hanging on his neck on the ground that the prosecution had not shown enough diligence in prosecuting the charge against him.
The anti-graft agency is prosecuting Omatseye on an 11-count charge of alleged corruption involving illegal transfer of £300,000 from the NIMASA’s account to his personal accounts. EFCC also alleged that Omatseye used his position to split tenders, evade his official limit on what he could approve and awarded contracts to 10 companies.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the prosecution represented by a public counsel attached to the EFCC, Ben Ubi, informed the court of the readiness of the prosecution to proceed with the cross examination of the prosecution witness in the absence of Mr. Godwin Obla, who has the Attorney General of the Federation’s fiat to prosecute the matter. He informed the court that Obla was unavoidably absent.
But Sofola objected to the move on the ground that the court had at the last adjourned date ruled that only Obla who has the Attorney General of the Federation’s fiat to prosecute the matter could go ahead with the case.
Sofola told the court that Obla had on last adjourned date asked for adjournment of the case as he was in Abuja for another matter, and that he would want to prosecute the case himself, as the sole recipient of the fiat.
The defence counsel, in his submission, argued that since Obla’s request was granted even when the defence was anxious to conclude its case and prove the innocence of its client, the counsel in court cannot proceed with the matter. The defence then urged the court to dismiss the charge, alleging that the prosecution had demonstrated that it was not diligent in pursuing the matter.
But Ubi in his submission urged the court to grant just another adjournment to either allow the Attorney General’s office take a decision on the matter or for Obla to continue with the case.
The judge later acceded to the request of the prosecution and adjourned the matter till March 22, 2012 even at the chagrin of the defence counsel.