A former executive director at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ezekiel Agaba, was guilty of laundering N1.5 billion belonging to the agency, a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court ruled on Wednesday.
Ibrahim Buba, the judge, sentenced the official to seven years in prison on each of the seven counts, totalling 49 years.
The sentences, however, are to run concurrently.
“The sentence runs with effect from today (Wednesday),” Buba added.
The judge said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the convict stole the sum from NIMASA while he was in charge of Maritime, Safety and Shipping.
The court declined to grant the application of EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, for the forfeiture of property allegedly bought by Agaba from the proceeds of the crime.
The judge agreed with the convict’s lawyer, E.D. Oyeneke, that the property is the subject of another suit at the federal high court.
During the trial, a witness said Agaba bought a land in Lekki for N70 million
Earlier, Oyeneke had pleaded that the court order non-custodial sentencing for Agaba. The lawyer said his client’s age places him at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison.
Buba did not grant the plea.
“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, counsel should consider approaching the state for pardon for the convict,” he added.
The EFCC had in 2015 arraigned Mr Agaba alongside a former NIMASA Managing Director, Patrick Akpolobokemi; a former NIMASA staff, Ekene Nwakuche; and the chairman of Ndokwa Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State, Juan Amechee, for allegedly laundering N2.6 billion.
They pleaded not guilty.
Mr Akpobolokemi filed a no-case submission but Buba, on October 16, 2017, dismissed it.
It was, however, was overturned by the Court of Appeal which unanimously discharged and acquitted the NIMASA boss.
Following the appellate court’s decision, the anti-graft agency on October 10, 2019, withdrew the charges against Messrs Amechee and Nwakuche.
But the EFCC maintained an amended charge against Mr Agaba.
The Commission told the judge that between December 23, 2013, and March 13, 2014, in Lagos, Mr Agaba converted the N1.5bn in tranches of N437,726,666.60; N66,800,000; N21,802,000; N402,480, 000; N525,000,000; N70,000.000; and N176, 000,000.
The funds were laundered through Seabulk Offshore Operator Ltd, Ace Protehesis Limited, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited and Aroward Consulting Limited.