Wednesday, May 29, 2019 7:18 pm
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun presiding over a Federal High Court in Lagos south west Nigeria has again deferred the sentencing of a former Acting Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Calistus Obi, who was convicted over alleged N331 million fraud.
Obi was on 23rd May, 2019, convicted alongside his Personal Assistant, Alu Dismas, on an eight-count charge of converting N331 million belonging to the agency for personal use.
Upon their conviction, Justice Olatoregun ordered their remand in prison custody till today for sentencing. However, when the case was mentioned, after listening to the submissions of parties for and against imposition of maximum sentence on the convicts,Justice Olatoregun further adjourned till 3rd June, 2019.
“In line with Section 390 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2011, I will adjourn one more time till 3rd of June, 2019, to look at all the issues raised by parties in their arguments. The defendants shall be kept in prison till then”,she declared.
In his arguments,EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to impose maximum sentence on the convicts for their failure to own up to the alleged offence when they were arraigned.
He said: “For wasting the time of the court which ultimately found them guilty of the offence, the defendants are thus not qualified to enjoy the discretion of the court in not imposing the maximum sentence.
“This is the time we must begin to make statement that send a signal to public servants and those entrusted with public funds, not to betray the trust imposed on them as the court had found in this case.
“The first and second defendant converted the total sum of N111 million to their personal use, while the first, third, and fourth defendants converted the sum of N114 million to their personal use.
“The court has the power to order them to refund the money and compensate the Agency for the funds already utilised”.
The lawyer also urged the court to forfeit N30 million recovered by the EFCC from Obi as well as a Hotel in Asaba called La Diva Hotel and Events Centre, owned by him to the Federal Government.
However, in their plea for leniency, defence lawyers, Mobolaji Kuti and Collins Ogbonna, urged the court to tamper justice with mercy in sentencing their clients.
They told the court that the convicts who have many dependants, were first time offenders. Particularly, Ogbonna pleaded with the court to consider a non-custodian sentence for his client whom he described as a mere “conduit pipe” used to deliver money to his superiors.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on 12th April, 2016, arraigned the duo alongside the immediate past Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, and two firms, on an 8-count charge of converting N331 million belonging to the agency for personal use.
The two firms involved are; Grand Pact Limited and Global Sea Investment.
In the charge marked FHC/L/148C/16, the accused persons were alleged to have committed the offence on August 5, 2014. They were said to have conspired to convert the said sum which is the property of NIMASA, and knowing same to be proceeds of stealing.
The offence contravened the provisions of Sections 15 and 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 2012.