By Ayo Kehinde
The Appeal Court, Lagos Division has voided the conviction of Mr. Alu, Dismas, an aide to former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NMASA, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, in an alleged N136 million fraud case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Delivering its judgement on Friday May 14th, 2021 in Lagos, the Justices of the Court of Appeal agreed with the appellant that the conviction was a nullity, in the lead judgement delivered by Justice T. Awotoye, while other members Justice C.N. Uwa, Chairman of the panel and Justice J. Abundaga agreed that the prosecution failed to prove the ingredients of money laundering against the appellant, Dismas Alu.
The EFCC had on April 12, 2016 arraigned Alu Dismas and Callistus Obi (a former Executive Director of NIMASA) on an eight-count charge. Also charged were two companies, Grand Pact Ltd and Global Seal Investment Ltd, as third and fourth defendants respectively.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that they conspired to convert money to the tune of N136m from NIMASA with knowledge that same were proceeds of stealing, thus contravening the provisions of sections 15 and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering and Prohibitions (Amendment) Act, 2021.
Recall that Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had on the May 23, 2019 convicted Alu Dismas and Obi Callistus alongside the aforementioned companies having found them guilty on the charges of money laundering, while discharging and acquitting them of the conspiracy charge.
Not satisfied with the judgement, Dismas through his lawyers approached the appeal court to upturn the conviction.
At Friday’s proceedings where the judgement was delivered via zoom, Barrister C.Z Katung represented the appellant while Barrister S.I Suleiman appeared for the respondent; the EFCC.
Dr. Akpobolokemi was NIMASA DG between 2011 and 2015 and is reputed to have implemented developmental projects. One of them was the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme, NSDP through which over 2, 500 Nigerian cadets have been trained both locally and in some foreign universities in the United Kingdom, United States of America, Philippines and Egypt, among others.