Alleged fraud: Appeal Court frees ex-NIMASA boss, Omatseye, reverses H’ Court

The Court of Appeal in Lagos, yesterday, reversed the sentence passed on Raymond Omatseye, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.

The Federal High Court, Lagos, on May 20, 2016, presided by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, sentenced Omatseye to five years in jail over an alleged N1.5 billion contract scam.

Justice Yargata Nimpar, who read the decision of the court, yesterday, said the High Court which tried him, did not properly evaluate the evidence before it.

Nimpar during the ruling said: “The prosecution should not ride roughshod over the Constitution. “The judiciary will do the war on corruption more harm by declaring someone a criminal, where no offence has been committed

“I find merit in the appeal. The conviction is hereby set aside and the appellant is hereby discharged and acquitted.”

The High Court had found Omatseye guilty of 24 out of the 27 charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

But the appellate court while delivering the judgment, held that the trial court did not properly evaluate the evidence.

Justice Nimpar, resolved all five grounds of appeal in the appellant’s favour.

Other members of the three-man panel were Justice Adejumo Obaseki and Abraham Georgewill, who concurred with the lead judgment. Though, they were not physically present but Nimpar announced their judgments.

Justice Nimpar, who read the judgment, considered whether the court properly evaluated the evidence.

She said: “I found out that it did not. The trial Court  cannot rely on any evidence. It was a mere notice which cannot carry criminal responsibility.’’

According to the justice, the condition under which Omatseye was convicted is not valid in law, being a subsidiary legislation.

The court further said that the prosecution represented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, did not formulate any issue for determination, adding that the law relied upon to convict the ex DG of NIMASA was not properly made, hence he cannot be punished.

Meanwhile there was wild jubilation by the kinsmen of the former DG, with shout of “Jesus, Jesus” taking over the open court  when the pronouncement was made.

They hugged one another in their multitude while singing songs in the acquitter’s Itsekiri local language. In the post judgment comments, his lawyer, Onyeke, applauded the decision of the appellate court, saying: “This is another decision of the court that has put impunity in abeyance and right the wrongs done on a person convicted wrongly under a non existent law.

“This will help in shaping our jurisprudence  and ensure that justice is not turn upside down in whatever way.” He urged prosecution not to be swayed on mere fantasy of fighting corruption.Vanguard

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