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Fraud: Court Jails Former NIMASA DG, Calistus Obi 42 Years

***As Dismas, An Aide To Another Former DG Of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi Gets 21-Year Jail Term 

*** N10m Also Slammed On Convicted Companies As Fine

By Francis Iwuchukwu, Lagos 

A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, presided over by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, on Monday (today) sentenced to 42 years imprisonment, the convicted former Acting Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Calistus Obi.

Also sentenced to 21 years imprisonment is Alu Dismas, an aide to another DG of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.

In sentencing the convicted Obi and Dismas, Justice Olatoregun declared that the sentence is to run concurrently.

Besides, Justice Olatoregun further held that the convicted Obi has the opportunity of settling for a fine to the tune of N42 million, while the convicted Dismas has the opportunity of settling for a fine to the tune of N21 million.

The Judge equally imposed a fine of N10m on the 3rd and 4th defendants (Grand Pact Ltd and Global Seal Investment Ltd.) in the criminal charge.

Justice Olatoregun insisted that even though the convicts were highly placed public officials, they failed in upholding the high expectations imposed on them. 

Before today's sentencing of the convicted Obi and Dismas, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had corroborated the judgment of Justice Olatoregun, that the duo betrayed the trust imposed on them by the Nigerian public.

Prior to this this submission, the judge had adjourned further till June 3, 2019 to slam a possible jail term on Obi alongside Dismas who were earlier convicted of fraud charges made against them by the anti-graft agency.

The convicted Dismas was an aide to a former D-G of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.

Equally charged before Justice Olatoregun were two companies, Grand Pact Ltd and Global Seal Investment Ltd.

It would be recalled that the judge had on May 23, 2019 convicted the defendants, after she found them guilty of allegations contained in the charge.

In her judgment which lasted for about two and half hours, Justice Olatoregun had found the first defendant guilty of counts five, six, seven and eight of the charge, and also found the second defendant guilty of counts two and four of the charge.

The conviction of the defendants thereafter prompted Justice Olatoregun to adjourn for counsels to address the court on sentencing.

During today's sitting on the case, lawyer to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo argued that the defendants be punished according to the provisions of the law, by imposing the requisite sentence.

The Commission's lawyer equally stated that 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.

Oyedepo said, “This is a time we must begin to make statements 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 N114million 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.

“We also urge the court to order the forfeiture to the Federal Government, of the sum of N30 million recovered by the EFCC from the first defendant.”

The anti-graft agency further urged the court to order forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), of a Hotel in Asaba called La Diva Hotel and Events Centre, which is owned by the first defendant.

“Doing this will also send a warning signal to intending members of the public, who want to “dip their hands into public funds,” he said.

On the issue of the third and fourth defendants, Oyedepo cited the provisions of sections 15(4) of the ACJA, which imposes a fine of 100 per cent on corporate bodies found guilty of such allegations.

The EFCC lawyer consequently prayed the court to make an order, imposing such fines on the companies, as they aided the defendants in committing the offence.

But pleading for mercy, Obi’s counsel, Mobolaji Kuti posited that the convicted Obi was a first time offender, with no past criminal records.

Making reference to the provisions of section 416 (d) of the ACJA, the lawyer intimated Justice Olatoregun that the law provides that a court shall not impose the maximum sentence on a first time offender.

He also suggested that the convict had been in dedicated service to the public for long.

Kuti revealed to the court that the convict had a family who depended solely on him and urged the court to be lenient.

He further suggested that in sentencing the convict, the court should order his remand in the Kirikiri prisons instead of Ikoyi Prisons.

On his part, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Collins Ogbonna  urged the court to give justice a “human face”

He suggested that the court should consider a non-custodian sentence for the second convict, who he described as a mere “conduit pipe” used to deliver money to his superiors.

According to him, the second convict did not benefit from the said funds but had only acted on instructions, adding that he had an aged father and a little baby who just turned one year.

After listening to the submissions of lawyers, Justice Olatoregun deferred sentence till June 3.

She also ordered the convicts to be remanded in Ikoyi prison, pending sentence.

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