Law News
Fraud: Court rules on ex-NIMASA boss’ fresh application

A Federal High Court in Lagos has slated March 23, 2015 to decide whether or not to suspend the trial of a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Raymond Omatseye, accused of N1.5bn fraud.

Omatseye had asked Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia to stay proceedings in his trial pending the decision of the Appeal Court on whether or not Ofili-Ajumogobia was right to have dismissed the  no-case application filed by the accused.

Omatseye was charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged engagement in contract splitting and bid rigging estimated at over N1.5bn while in office.

The offence, according to the EFCC, contravened sections 58(4) (d) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and section 14(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

Omatseye, however, pleaded not guilty following which the prosecution, led by Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), opened its case.

But upon the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, Omatseye, through his lawyer, Olusina Sofola (SAN), submitted a no-case application, insisting  that the prosecution had established no prima facie case against him to warrant his entering any defence.

Ruling on the application, however, Ofili-Ajumogobia held that Omatseye had a case to answer.

Displeased, Omatseye had therefore lodged an appeal asking the Appeal Court to overrule the trial judge and set him free.

He further asked the lower court to suspend his trial pending the outcome of the appeal.

But the EFCC asked the court to reject the prayer for stay of proceedings.

Opposing Omatseye’s application on Thursday, Obla said the trial court by Section 40 of the EFCC Act had no jurisdiction to hear the application for stay of proceedings.

Besides, Obla maintained that criminal trials were to be heard expeditiously adding that suspending the trial was not in the interest of justice.

Obla added, “An applicant must show special and exceptional circumstances to warrant granting of the application by this court.”

But according to him, Omatseye had not shown anywhere in his application such special and exceptional circumstances to merit being obliged.

But Omatseye’s lawyer, Sofola urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice, as he said the appeal bordered on jurisdiction.

According to Sofola, where the issue of jurisdiction was in contention, the court must necessarily stay proceedings to allow the appellate court to decide one way or the other.

Sofola while expressing the belief that the appeal will be expeditiously heard, said all steps had been taken at the upper court for the records to be transmitted.

“We have almost completed the work on the appellant’s brief of arguments ” he said.

Ofili-Ajumogobia adjourned till March 23 to rule on the application for stay of proceedings.

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