Wednesday, July 15, 2020 5:06 pm
By Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria today sentenced a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Executive Director, Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba, to fourty-nine years imprisonment for laundering N1,541,408,666.00.
The former NIMASA Director was convicted of seven counts of conversion and criminal breach of trust filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The presiding Judge Ibrahim Buba in his judgement said that the EFCC proved beyond reasonable doubt that the convict stole the sum from NIMASA while he was in charge of Maritime, Safety and Shipping, Consequently sentenced him to seven years imprisonment on each of the seven counts, totalling 49 years.
However, the sentences will run concurrently, meaning Agaba will spend a maximum of only seven years in jail.
The sentence runs with effect from today.
The court declined the application of EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo for the forfeiture of property allegedly bought by Agaba from the proceeds of the money laundering but upheld the submission of the Agaba’s counsel Barrister E.D. Oyeneke that the property is the subject of another suit at the Federal High Court.
Oyeneke also in his plea for mercy prayed the court to order a non-custodial sentencing for Agaba, in view of his age being in the high risk category for COVID-19 infection in prison.
But Justice Buba said”In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, counsel should consider approaching the state for pardon for the convict,”.
Agaba was arraigned before the court in 2015 alongside a former NIMASA Managing Director Dr. Patrick Akpolobokemi, a former NIMASA staff Ekene Nwakuche and the chairman of Ndokwa Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State, Juan Amechee Governor, for allegedly laundering the sum of N2.6 billion.
They pleaded not guilty.
After the prosecutor closed his case Akpobolokemi filed a no case submission but the court, on October 16, 2017, dismissed his no case submission,The verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Lagos on June 1, 2016, which unanimously discharged and acquitted Akpobolokemi.
Following the appellate court’s decision, the anti-graft agency on October 10, 2019, withdrew the charges against Governor and Nwakuche,but maintained an amended charge against Agaba.
The Anti-graft Agency stated that between December 23, 2013 and March 13, 2014 in Lagos, Agaba converted the sum of N1.5billion in tranches of N437,726,666.60,
N66,800,000, N21,802,000,N402,480, 000.00, N525,000,000, N70,000.000 and N176, 000,000.
The funds were laundered through four companies namely Seabulk Offshore Operator Ltd, Ace Protehesis Limited, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited and Aroward Consulting Limited.