Court jails ex-NIMASA boss for five years

David Adekunle, Lagos


 A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has convicted and sentenced former Director General of NIMASA, Raymond Temisan Omatseye to a term of five years imprisonment over a N1.5 billion contract.

The court also confirmed his dismissal from the services of the agency.

Omatseye was former Director-General of NIMASA—Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, and he was on suspension when he was standing trial.

He was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission—EFCC on a 27 count charge of bid rigging and contract splitting.

Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) appeared as lead prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, while Mr Edoka Oneyeke appeared for the accused as defence counsel.

In her judgment the presiding judge Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia found Omatseye guilty of 24 out of the 27 counts preferred against him.

She however, discharged and acquitted him of 3 out of the 27 counts bordering on bid rigging.

Ajumogobia found Omatseye guilty of the offence of awarding contracts above stipulated threshold, and accordingly convicted him on 24 counts.

She said : “In the instant charge, the defendant testified in his evidence in chief that he was released on administrative bail and asked to come back the following day and in his statement, he responded that his threshold for supply was N2.5 million”

“Furthermore,his statement was corroborated by Pw2 and Pw3; Pw2 stated in his testimony that in line with the Public Procurement Act, the Chief Executive officer had a threshold of N2.5 million for goods and N5 million for works.

“From the foregoing, I find that the exhibit PD 16 A-Y are all above the threshold and approved limit of the DG; that means, they are all above N2.5 million.

“The testimony of Pw2 and 3 that the approved threshold of the defendant on goods and services was N2.5million does not only corroborate the statement of the defendant, but totally lends credence to the threshold limit applicable on the defendant as DG of NIMASA.

” I find that the threshold as contained in exhibit PD 16 Z is applicable to the defendant, setting his limit as N2.5 million for procurement of goods, and N5 million for procurement of services.

“A calm perusal of exhibit PD 16 series reveals that they are repetitive awards of contract for the supply of goods approved by the defendant in his capacity as DG of NIMASA.

“It is clear that all the contract sum are above the threshold as set out in exhibit PD 16 Z, thereby violating the provisions of section 161 (a) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.

“Accordingly, based on the foregoing before this court, I am satisfied that the prosecution has proved it’s case against the defendant beyond reasonable doubt, in the face of the offence contained in counts 1-20,24,25,26,and 27.

“I accordingly find him guilty as charged on these counts.

“The second issue is whether the prosecution has proved the offence of bid rigging?

“It is trite law that the prosecution must prove all the essential ingredients of the offence before it can be said to have been proved beyound reasonable doubt.

“It is my view that the prosecution has not established the offence of bid rigging against the defendant to secure a conviction on that ground, and I so hold.

“The accused is hereby sentenced to five years imprisonment on counts 1 to 20,24,25,26 and 27 of the charge.

“He is discharged and acquitted of counts 21, 22, and 23 of the charge.

“The term of imprisonment are to run concurrently” she held

In his allocutus (mercy plea before sentence), counsel to the accused, Onyeke, had passionately urged the court to temper justice with mercy.

He reminded the court that the accused was a senior member of the bar who had been suspended from work since 2010.

He had urged the court to consider the disposition of the accused who had religiously attended court without failure, since his arraignment, and had prayed the court to show leniency.

To establish his case against the accused, EFCC called  three witnesses.

The prosecution also tendered several bulk documents as exhibit, while the defendant called two witnesses and tendered one document as exhibit.