A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Tuesday, ordered a former acting Director General of NIMASA, Calistus Obi, to enter his defence to a N136 million fraud charge preferred against him.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred an Eight count charge against the former acting D-G of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Obi, who was also an Executive Director of NIMASA was charged alongside one Alu Dismas, a former personal assistant to ex DG of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
They had however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bail in the sum of N5 million each.
The trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun on Tuesday, ordered the accused to enter their defence to the charges against them, while delivering her ruling on a no case submission filed by the accused.
Olatoregun held: “The central issue to consider having gone through the submissions on all sides is whether there is no legally admissible evidence linking the defendants with the commission of the offence of conversion of money belonging to NIMASA;
“Or that the evidence has been discredited by cross examination, or so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal or court can act on it as establishing the criminal guilt of the defendant.
“I cannot at this stage go into evaluation of the evidence before me or whether a particular document was wrongly admitted; the key question is whether those evidence can justifiably secure the conviction of the defendants
“I have only the evidence of the prosecution and so, can any reasonable tribunal or judge honestly say that from the evidence so far adduced by prosecution, either directly or circumstantially, that the defendants should not be called upon to make an explanation as regards their conducts? My answer is No!
“I must admit that there is a prima facie case made out against the defendants; this must be distinguished from the proof of the guilt of the defendants, a conclusion which I can only arrive at, at the end of the case, when the court has to find out whether the defendant is guilty or not.
“it is for now immaterial whether or not I believe the evidence of the prosecution; for now, the credibility of the witness does not arise.
“I have juxtaposed the evidence provided by the prosecution in section 15 (1) and 18 (a) of the money laundering prohibition Act and the essential element of the offences, and I am satisfied that the defendants has a reason to be called upon to place their defence before the court.
“The respective submissions on no case by the defence, is hereby over ruled, and I rely on the cases of Obasohan v Federal Government, as well as Amadi vs Federal Government,” she held.
The court consequently adjourned the suit to March 24 and 27 for the accused to open their defence.
The court added that the defence must be prepared to open and close its case on those dates, in order to make progress.
At the last adjourned date, defence counsel, Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN) had informed the court of his application for a no case submission filed on Dec. 2, 2016, on behalf of the first accused.
He had urged the court to hold that the prosecution had not made out a prima facie case to secure the conviction of the accused.
In the same vein, counsel to the second accused, Mr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) had also urged the court to uphold the no case submission of his client and discharge him.
He had argued that the charges against his client were predicated mainly on conspiracy and conversion, adding that the prosecution had not made out sufficient evidence in proving an agreement to commit the offence.
In response, the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo had objected to the no case submission of defence counsels, and urged the court to call upon the accused to enter their defence.
Oyedepo had submitted and urged the court to have a glimpse of the totality of evidences adduced by prosecution, before arriving at a conclusion whether same can secure a conviction.
In the charge the accused were said to have committed the offence on Aug. 5 2014.
They were said to have conspired to convert the said sum which is property of NIMASA, and knowing same to be proceeds of stealing.
The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of sections 15 and 18(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 2012.