A Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced a former Executive Director of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Captain Ezekiel Agaba, to seven years imprisonment for laundering N1,541,408,666.
Justice Ibrahim Buba convicted Agaba of the seven counts of conversion and criminal breach of trust filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Buba ruled that the EFCC proved beyond reasonable doubt that the convict stole the sum from NIMASA while he was in charge of Maritime, Safety and Shipping.
He sentenced Agaba to seven years imprisonment on each of the seven counts, totalling 49 years.
But the sentences will run concurrently, the judge said, meaning Agaba will spend a maximum of only seven years in jail.
“The sentence runs with effect from today (Wednesday),” the judge held.
The court declined the application of EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, for the forfeiture of property allegedly bought by Agaba from the proceeds of the laundering.
Buba upheld the submission of the Agaba’s counsel Mr. E.D. Oyeneke, that the property is the subject of another suit at the Federal High Court.
Oyeneke had also in his allocutus prayed the court to order a non-custodial sentencing for Agaba, in view of his age being in the high-risk category for COVID-19 infection in prison.
“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, counsel should consider approaching the state for pardon for the convict,” Buba added.
The EFCC had in 2015 arraigned Agaba alongside a former NIMASA Managing Director, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former NIMASA staff, Ekene Nwakuche, and the Chairman of Ndokwa Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State, Juan Amechee Governor, for allegedly laundering N2.6 billion.
Akpobolokemi filed a no-case submission but Buba, on October 16, 2017, dismissed it.
This was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Lagos on June 1, 2016, which unanimously discharged and acquitted Akpobolokemi.
Following the appellate court’s decision, the anti-graft agency on October 10, 2019, withdrew the charges against Governor and Nwakuche.
But the EFCC maintained an amended charge against Agaba.
The commission told the judge that between December 23, 2013, and March 13, 2014, in Lagos, Agaba converted the N1.5 billion in tranches of N437,726,666.60, N66,800,000, N21,802,000 and N402,480, 000.00, 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.