A former acting Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Calistus Obi, who is being tried for an alleged fraud of N136m, told the court on Monday that part of the money was channelled into the building of his hotel in Delta State.
He, however, said he had since refunded the sum after being held by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Obi said this before the Federal High Court in Lagos, where he is standing trial alongside Alu Dismas, who was a personal assistant to his (Obi’s) predecessor, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
The other defendants in the charge are two firms – Grand Pact Limited and Global Sea Investment.
Obi, who is the first defendant, was fielding questions from the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, on Monday.
Answering questions as to what became of the N136m, Obi said, “I used part of the money to build my hotel constructed by Seastroke International. But the money has since been refunded to the EFCC.
“The hotel is located somewhere in Asaba, Delta State. I can’t recollect the address now. The building is completed and is already functioning. The title documents of the hotel is being processed but I have the Certificate of Occupancy and I can produce it before the court.”
His lawyer, Wale Akoni (SAN), however, raised an objection to the prosecutor’s enquiry about the title documents of the hotel, which he contended was not a subject before the court.
Akoni said, “My Lord, I am opposed to this line of questioning by the prosecution’s lawyer. The ownership of the hotel is not an issue in these proceedings. The prosecution is only trying to device a means of seizing the title documents through the back door.”
In his response, the EFCC lawyer, Oyedepo, urged the court to allow him to continue with his enquiry about the hotel, saying the witness had already admitted deploying part of the allegedly diverted money to building it.
“The witness has admitted that part of the funds allegedly diverted by him was used in building the hotel that is now functioning. At the end of this case, the law, as it stands today, empowers My Lord to forfeit property acquired with proceeds of unlawful activity.
“Section 30 of the EFCC Act empowers the court to forfeit proceeds of unlawful activity. I urge the court to allow us ask questions that will lead to the recovery of the title documents so that it can form part of the court’s record,” Oyedepo said.
In a bench ruling, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun dismissed Akoni’s objections, holding that “the questions asked on the title documents are in order and the issue of the EFCC trying to forcefully seize it does not arise.”
Meanwhile, the second defendant, Dismas, burst into tears in the open court on Monday after the judge revoked the bail granted him and sent him back to the prison custody.
The judge’s decision followed Dismas’ lateness to court.
Justice Olatoregun said it was not the first time that Dismas, who walked in at about 10.35am on Monday, would come late to court or be absent, stressing that the court could not wait for an accused person.