Estimated Reading Time: <1
A former Commander of Guards Brigade and erstwhile Commander of the Joint Military Task Force, OPERATION PULO SHIELD, Major General Emmanuel Atewe was today arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi on an 11-count charge bordering on conspiracy, abuse of office and money laundering. The officer who is currently serving with the army’s Training and Doctrine Command in Minna, Niger state was charged alongside a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NMASA, Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi; Kime Engozu and Josphine Otuaga.
The accused persons allegedly conspired among themselves to divert over N8billion paid into the account of the Joint Military Task Force by NIMASA during the tenure of Akpobolokemi. The money was converted into foreign exchange and the proceeds shared by the defendants. Specifically, payments to the tune of N8, 537,586,798.58 were allegedly made to the JTF’s account with a new generation bank by NIMASA. A substantial part of the money, about N6, 038,350,741 was converted into United States Dollars by Atewe and Akpobolokemi, through various Bureau De Change operators, and handed over to Enzogu and Otuaga who were business partners to Akpobokelemi and thereafter shared by the defendants
Part of the money was allegedly used in the acquisition of choice properties in Port Harcourt and Abuja, as well as shares in blue chip companies.
One of the charges read, “That you Mr. Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, Major General Emmanuel Atewe, Kime Engozu and Josphine Otuaga, sometime in 2014, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this court with intent to defraud conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit; Conversion of the sum of N8,537,586,798.58 (Eight billion, five hundred and thirty seven million, five hundred and eighty six thousand, seven hundred and ninety eight Naira, fifty eight kobo), property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition)(Amendment)Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act’’ .
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo told the court that he was ready for trial with his witnesses and pleaded for accelerated hearing.
Counsel to the first accused, Mathew Bukar however prayed the court to grant his client (Akpobolokemi) bail, as he had earlier been granted bail by judges in the other cases where he is currently standing trial. Counsel to the third and fourth accused, U.B.E Innaji also urged the court to exercise its discretion to grant bail in the favour of his clients.
However, the court rejected Mike Ozekhome SAN, counsel to General Atewe’s prayer to grant his client bail based on self recognition.
Justice Saidu after considering the bail applications granted bail to the first accused (Akpobokelemi) on the terms earlier given by courts where he is currently standing trial on corruption charges.
The second, third and fourth accused were also granted bail in the sum of One hundred million naira each, two sureties and one of whom must be a senior civil servant of the rank of Deputy Director. The other must be a relative who must have a property in Victoria Island, Ikoyi, or Lekki areas of Lagos.
The accused are remanded in prison custody pending when they perfect the terms of their bail.
Justice Saidu adjourned the case to June 24, 2016 for commencement of trial.