The trial of a former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, charged with alleged N754.8 million fraud on Wednesday suffered a setback due to the absence of the defence witness.
Akpobolokemi is standing trial alongside Ezekiel Agaba, a former Executive Director of NIMASA, on an amended 12-year-old charge bordering on alleged stealing, forgery and conspiracy.
When the case was called, counsel for the first defendant, Mr Charles Okechukwu, told the court that the defence would not be able to open its case.
Okechukwu said one of the witnesses was bereaved and had travelled for the obsequies.
He said that the other defence witness was not also available.
“We have written an application for adjournment, though we know that today is slated for defence. The defence witnesses that we intended to present are unavailable for the trial.
“One of the witnesses lost his mother and the service of songs takes place tomorrow, so he is not in Lagos but in Bayelsa,” he said.
The defence counsel further told the court that a letter had been written to the prosecution informing them of the development and so applied for an adjournment to subsisting dates.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) counsel, Mr Suleiman Suleiman, confirmed receipt of the said letter.
“We were served with the said letter yesterday and in the interest of justice, we will not object,” he said.
The second defence counsel, Mrs Grace Omole, also raised no objection.
Justice Raliatu Adebiyi adjourned the case until Feb.27 for continuation of trial.
When the prosecution closed its case, the defendants through their respective lawyers, Mr Collins Ogbonna and Mr Edoka Onyeke, filed the no-case submissions.
However, on the May 8, 2023 ruling on the no-case submissions of the defendants, Adebiyi had held that the prosecution had made a prima facie case against the two defendants on counts two, three, four, five and seven bordering on stealing.
She had further held that a prima facie case had been made against the second defendant on counts nine, 10, 11 and 12 bordering on forgery.
They were, however, discharged and acquitted on counts one, six and eight bordering on conspiracy.
The judge had ordered them to open their defence on the remaining counts.
According to the prosecution, the alleged offences contravene Sections 285 and 409 of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2011