THE Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday sentenced a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General Temisan Raymond Omatseye to five years imprisonment over N1.5 billion contract scam.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia convicted him on a 27-count charge bordering on bid rigging and contract splitting.
It is the first major high profile conviction since President Muhammadu Buhari began his anti-corruption crusade.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia found Omatseye guilty of 24 out of the 27 counts preferred against him. She, however, discharged and acquitted him of three 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 counts 1 to 20,24,25,26 and 27. She 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 (prosecution witness two) 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 Pw3 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 sums 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.
“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 terms of imprisonment are to run concurrently.”
Omatseye was arraigned on January 21, 2013 by the EFCC before Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia on an amended 27 counts of engaging in contract splitting and bid rigging to the tune of over N1.5bn while in office as the DG of NIMASA.
The offence, the anti-graft agency said, contravened Section 58(4) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Omatseye was also accused on breaching the provisions of Section 14(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.
Upon his re-arraignment on January 21, 2013, he pleaded not guilty, following which the court ordered the prosecution to open its case.
EFCC, through its lawyer, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), called three witnesses, including an EFCC investigator, Ibrahim Ahmed; a former Acting Director of Procurement with NIMASA, Mohammed Shehu; and an officer of the Bureau of Public Procurement, Aminu Aliyu.
Omatseye, through his lawyer, Mr. Olusina Sofola (SAN), filed a no-case submission, contending that the charge filed against him by the EFCC was defective.But the judge, last February 2, ordered him to defend the charge.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia said she was satisfied that the EFCC proved the allegations in 24 out of the 27 counts against Omatseye beyond reasonable doubt.