Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) re-arraigned former acting Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Haruna Baba Jauro, before the Federal High Court, Lagos, over alleged N156.4 million fraud.
Baba Jauro was docked alongside Dr Dauda Bistrus Bawa, the personal assistant to a former NIMASA DG, Patrick Akpobolokemi, and a Limited liability company, Thlumbau Enterprises Limited on a 19-count charge bordering on the alleged offence before Justice Chuka Obiozor.
Their re-arraignment was coming on the heels of the transfer of the case to Justice Obiozor following the retirement of the former trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, from the Bench last year.
Upon their re-arraignment, the defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts. The EFCC’s lawyer, A. O. Mohammed, later sought for a trial date and asked that the defendants be remanded in Correctional Centre.
Responding, defence lawyer Olalekan Ojo, drew the court’s attention to the fact that his clients have been admitted to bail by the former trial judge, saying they have faithfully complied with the conditions. He pleaded with Justice Obiozor to allow them to continue on the existing bail conditions.
In the absence of any objection from the EFCC’s lawyer, the judge granted Ojo’s request and fixed 17th March 2021 as the date for commencement of trial.
The defendants were first arraigned before Justice Olatoregun on the 12th of April, 2016 and in its bid to prove the case, the EFCC had called a total of 16 witnesses. The defence also called five witnesses in its quest to clear the defendants.
The case had reached the stage of adoption of final written addresses by parties, a step away from judgement, when Justice Olatoregun retired in November 2019.
In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that the defendants in January 2014 converted N156.4 million belonging to NIMASA to their own in contravention of Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and were liable to punishment under Section 15(3) of the same Act.