Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba. EFCC Photo

By Akin Kuponiyi

Captain Ezekiel Bala Agaba, a former executive director of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has been sentenced to 7 years in jail for laundering N1, 541,408,666.

The sentence was handed down today by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Buba gave Agaba a total of 49 years imprisonment, convicting him on each of the seven count charge.

But he will only spend 7 years, as the sentences will run concurrently.

Justice Buba said that the EFCC proved beyond reasonable doubt that the convict stole the sum from NIMASA while he was in charge of Maritime, Safety and Shipping.

The court declined the application of EFCC counsel Rotimi Oyedepo for the forfeiture of property allegedly bought by Agaba from the proceeds of the money laundering.

However, the judge upheld the submission of Agaba’s counsel Barrister E.D. Oyeneke that the property is the subject of another suit at the Federal High Court.

Oyeneke also in his plea for mercy prayed the court to order a non-custodial sentencing for Agaba, in view of his age, being in the high risk category for COVID-19 infection in prison.

But Justice Buba said”In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, counsel should consider approaching the state for pardon for the convict,”.

Agaba was arraigned before the court in 2015 alongside a former NIMASA Managing Director Dr. Patrick Akpolobokemi, a former NIMASA staff Ekene Nwakuche and the chairman of Ndokwa Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta State, Juan Amechee Governor, for allegedly laundering the sum of N2.6 billion.

They pleaded not guilty.

After the prosecution closed his case, Akpobolokemi filed a no case submission but the court, on October 16, 2017, dismissed his submission.

The verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Lagos on June 1, 2016, which unanimously discharged and acquitted Akpobolokemi.

Following the appellate court’s decision, the anti-graft agency on October 10, 2019, withdrew the charges against Governor and Nwakuche, but brought an amended charge against Agaba.

The Anti-graft Agency stated that between December 23, 2013 and March 13, 2014 in Lagos, Agaba converted the sum of N1.5billion in tranches of N437,726,666.60,N66,800,000, N21,802,000,N402,480, 000.00, N525,000,000, N70,000.000 and N176, 000,000.

The funds were laundered through four companies namely Seabulk Offshore Operator Ltd, Ace Protehesis Limited, Extreme Vertex Nigeria Limited and Aroward Consulting Limited.