Court Orders Forfeiture Of $16,500, N127m ‘Stolen’ NIMASA Funds

Justice Kehinde Ogundare of the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered the final forfeiture of $16,500 and N127 million diverted from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) accounts to the federal government.

Justice Ogundare ordered the seizure of the monies after listening to an application filed by Sulaiman Sulaiman, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lawyer.

The EFCC had told the judge that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activities.

On May 3, 2024, the judge ordered the interim forfeiture of the money and ordered the anti-graft agency to publish the order in a national newspaper so that interested parties could show cause why the funds should not be forfeited.

However, nobody challenged the proceedings at yesterday’s resumed hearing.

While moving the application for the final forfeiture, Sulaiman informed the court that the application is supported by 22 paragraphs deposed to by Oghare Ogbole, an investigator with the EFCC.

He said, “Two exhibits accompany the application: the court’s interim order and lunch publication of June 26, 2024. It’s supported by the written address.

“We most respectively adopt same and urge the court to grant the relief sought,” he stated.

Justice Ogundare, after listening to the lawyer, held that “order granted as prayed”.

The EFCC, in the affidavit in support of the application, made the following claims, “that on the 2nd October 2013, the management of NIMASA under the leadership of Dr Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi vide letter referenced: NIMASA 2007/DG/NSA/2013/006 dated 2/10/13, requested for the release of the sum of N1,123,400 billion, for the implementation of International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) projects.

“On the 4th day of November 2013, the then President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, through the national security adviser (NSA), approved the requested sum of N1,123,400 billion And that upon the release of the first tranche in the sum of N, 123 400 billion, account No. 0060559139, domiciled in a commercial bank, was opened on 03/1/14, in which Captain Bala Ezekiel Agaba, the chairman of the ISPS Committee/executive director, NIMASA, Mr Victor I. Onuzurike and Mr. Dele T, Ejekukor are signatories.

“That no sooner had the money hit the Committee’s account, one Mr Uche Obilor, a close associate of the chairman of the committee, Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba, received that total sum of N437,726,666.66 million, through his company known as Seabulk Offshore Operator Limited with account number 005326440 domiciled in a commercial bank.

“That the said Mr Uche Obilor received another whopping sum of N402,480 million through his company Southern Offshore Limited with a commercial bank, account number 1013224100. Also, Mr Uche Obilor used his company, Ace Prothesis Limited, to receive N66,800 million through its account number 1012583949, domiciled in the bank.

“That out of the N437,726,666.66 million paid to Seabulk Offshore Operator Limited, the total sum of N187 million was transferred to Usaini Sabo on 06/03/2014, 10/06/2014, 12/06/2014 and 09/07/2014, who in turn converted same to US Dollars and handed them over to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba.

“That from the said sum paid to Seabulk Offshore Operator Limited, the total sum of N67 million, was on the 23rd July 2014, paid to Kofar Fada Limited, who also converted the money to US dollars and handed over the same to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba. And that the sum of N66,800 million, received by Uche Obilor through his company Ace Prothesis Limited from NIMASA, was equally converted to personal use without rendering any service to the agency.

“That from the sum of N402,480 million, received by Uche Obilor through his company Southern Offshore Limited from NIMASA, the total sum of N268 million, was paid to one Usaini Sabo, who converted the said sum to US dollars and handed same over to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba.

“That from the sum of N402,480 million, received from NIMASA by Mr Uche Obilor through his company Southern Offshore Limited, the total sum of N103,100 million, was equally transferred to Haji Kawu Investment Bureau De Change and Lekay Leads Ventures Limited, which sums were similarly converted to US Dollars and handed over to Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba.

“That the various sums of money transferred to the companies of Mr Uche Obilor from the treasury of NIMASA were fraudulent in that these companies neither rendered any service nor supplied goods to the agency. Instead, the funds were converted mainly to Dollars for personal use, and Mr. Uche Obilor retained the remaining.”

 

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