Former DG NIMASA, Omatseye, appeals 5 years jail sentence judgment

Mr Temisan Omatseye, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has appealed against a Federal High Court judgment sentencing him to five years imprisonment, on ground that justice had yet been established.

Justice Rita Ofilli-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi slammed a five years jail sentence on Omatseye, without any options of fine, on the ground that Temisan gave approval above his threshold of N2.5million.

Temisan’s Lawyer, Barrister Edoka Onyeke, while appealing against the five years sentence, which also sacked Omatseye from the employ of NIMASA, argued that his client was ‘being persecuted, rather than being prosecuted.’

The lawyer said that the offense of ‘contract splitting; did not exist in the law as at the time the client granted the controversial approval.

Ofilli-Ajumogobia had in delivering the judgment noted that the former DG NIMASA, who is facing a 27-count charge bordering on contract splitting worth N271 million while he was the boss of the maritime regulatory agency, was on suspension.

The lawyer noted that the Judge who had been transferred to Kwara jurisdiction threw out a January 23, 2013 letter from the BPP which cleared Omatseye of any wrongdoing while in the agency.

The letter addressed to former President Goodluck Jonathan, signed by Engr. Emeka Ezeh, former DG of the BPP, told the president that after a scrutiny of the case, the Bureau was of the view that the 27-count charge cannot secure conviction as they were brought under sections of the procurement Act that deals with administrative breaches rather than real Offences under the Act that can attract conviction or sanctions from the regular courts.

Temisan Omatseye, according to eye witnesses broke down and wept uncontrollably after Ofili-Ajumogobia pronounced the judgment sentencing him over a-27-count charge bordering on N1.5billion bid rigging and contract splitting.

Delivering her judgment by fiat on Friday, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, found Omatseye guilty of 24 out of the 27 counts preferred against him. 

The judge found Omatseye guilty of the offence of awarding contracts above stipulated threshold, and accordingly convicted him on counts 1 to 20,24,25,26, and 27. 
She, however, discharged and acquitted him on counts 21, 22 and 23 of the charge.

The judge held “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 position 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 its 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.

On whether the prosecution has proved the offence of bid rigging, the court held “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 beyond 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. However the term of imprisonment is to run concurrently. In his allocutus (mercy plea before sentence) counsel to the accused, Onyeke had passionately urged the court to tamper 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 that had religiously attended court without fail, since his arraignment, and had prayed the court to show leniency. To establish his case against the accused, EFCC called a total of three witnesses.

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