The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is said to have suspended all the nine top ranking staff being arraigned alongside the former Director General, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, over alleged N38.2 billion fraud.
Sources at the agency revealed that their suspension by the acting Director General, Haruna Baba Jauro, was as a result of their connection with the alleged fraud for which they have been interdicted in line with the Civil Service rules.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned the affected staff along with their former boss at two different Federal High Courts in Lagos and another Lagos High Court for various offences, including the alleged diversion of the agency’s funds running into N38.2 billion.
The affected staff, according to sources, are the Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba; Director, Shipping Development, Captain Warredi Enisuoh; Director, Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standards, Vincent Udoye; and Director, Servicom, Felix Bob-Nabena.
Others are two Assistant Directors, Governor Amechee Juan (Maritime Safety) and Ugo Fredrick (Shipping Promotion).
Also suspended are Timi Alari, who is a former Personal Assistant to Akpobolokemi; Ekene Nwakuche, Personal Assistant to Agaba; and Rex Elems, Head Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) unit of the agency.
Akpobolokemi was arraigned by the EFCC on December 3, 2015, before Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos along with Agaba, Nwakuche, Bob-Nabena, Enisuoh, Juan, Ugo, Alari and two companies Al-Kenzo Limited and Peniel Engineering Services Limited.
They were accused of conspiring among themselves to convert N3.4 billion belonging to NIMASA, as the commission said the sum was “derived from stealing.”
EFCC said the alleged offence contravenes Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition/Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3).
On January 14, 2015, the anti-graft agency filed a separate 40-count charge on alleged diversion of N34 billion against Akpobolokemi and former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND), Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.
They were alleged to have converted $108.7 million and N2.2 billion, property of NIMASA, with the knowledge that the said sums were stolen.
Elem and Enisuoh were charged alongside Akpobolokemi and Tompolo, while four companies namely: Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited and Destre Consult Limited were also listed on the charge sheet.
The accused were arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Agaba, Nwakuche, Juan and Udoye are facing separate trial before a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Raliat Adebiyi.
They were arraigned along with Akpobolokemi, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Captain Ade Olopoenia and a company named Gama Nigeria Limited.
The accused persons were arraigned by EFCC for allegedly stealing N754.7 million belonging to NIMASA.
A staff in the office of the director general told an industry publication, Ships & Ports Daily recently that the staff were “interdicted” in line with the rules and regulations of the Civil Service.
“All those arraigned have been on suspension but we don’t call it suspension. They were interdicted, which means they cannot come to work until the end of their trial, but if the court finds them guilty of the offences, then their appointments will be terminated; if they are cleared by the court, then they will return to work.
“But while they are on interdiction, they will be paid only half salary. This is in line with Civil Service rules,” a source who did not want to be named told the publication.
The source hinted that more staff would be suspended in days to come as the EFCC “charges them to court.”