An investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ahmed Ghali, claimed on Monday that a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, defrauded the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency of about N23.8bn between April 2012 and March 2015, through a contract awarded to his company.
Ghali claimed that the N23.8bn was an overpayment on the said contract awarded to Tompolo’s company, Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, by NIMASA under the watch of a former Director-General of the agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
According to him, the contract was for the “improvement of security within the Nigeria maritime domain, improvement in data collection, improvement of cabotage and revenue generation enforcement, improvement of safety of life at sea and enhancement of search and rescue, improvement in pollution control and management leading to cleaner waters.”
Ghali appeared on Monday as the first prosecution witness before a Federal High Court in Lagos where the EFCC filed a 40-count of alleged N45.9bn fraud against Tompolo, Akpobolokemi and eight others.
While Akpobolokemi and the eight others defendants were arraigned on March 22, 2016, Tompolo, who had shunned a court’s summons served on him to appear in court, has yet to be arraigned.
The other defendants in the alleged fraud case filed before Justice Ibrahim Buba are Kime Engozu, Rex Elem, Gregory Mbonu and Capt. Warredi Enisuoh.
Others are Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited and Destre Consult Limited.
Led in evidence on Monday by the EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, Ghali claimed that NIMASA and Tompolo’s company entered into a public-private partnership agreement on April 3, 2012.
Ghali claimed that the fraud began when a benchmark for sea protection levy was altered, adding that despite protests by a NIMASA director, Victor Onwuzuruike, the alteration was approved by Akpobolokemi.
He said, “Based on this fraudulent benchmark, which was not in line with the PPP agreement, Mr. Akpobolokemi approved payment of the total sum of N132,590,694.86 and $42,331,549.85 between 2012 and 2015 from the sea protection levy generated by NIMASA in favour of Global West.
“Investigation revealed that apart from the fraudulent payment of the sea protection to Global West, NIMASA, under Mr. Akpobolokemi, also compromised the benchmark stipulated in Schedule III of the agreement.
“In violent breach of the sacrosanct provision of the PPP agreement, Mr. Akpobolokemi, on June 4, 2012, gave a verbal directive to the committee on benchmark to prepare another benchmark contrary to the agreement.
“NIMASA overpaid Global West with a whopping sum of N2,935,250,447.06 and $114,750,076.35 (about N22,863,952,712.74) between April 2012 and March 2015,” Ghali said.
According to him, Global West allegedly paid kickbacks to Akpobolokemi through a company in which he is a director.