Appeal court sets Raymond Omatseye, ex-DG of NIMASA free of fraud charges

Raymond Omatseye

The Court of Appeal in Lagos yesterday overturned the five-year jail term slammed on the former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Temisan Omatseye.

Omatseye was convicted by a Federal High Court over alleged award of contract above the N2.5 million limit approved by law.Justice Yargata Nimpar of the appellate court discharged and acquitted Omatseye of all the 24 counts for which he was convicted at the lower court.

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, Justice Nimpar announced their judgments.

The appellate court also set aside the judgment delivered on May 20, 2016 at the Federal High Court, Lagos, which convicted Omatseye of bid rigging and contract splitting.

Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia found Omatseye guilty of N1.5 billion contract scam.She held that Omatseye awarded contracts above the stipulated threshold and accordingly convicted him in 24 out of 27 counts, but he was discharged and acquitted of three counts of ‎contract splitting.

But the appellate court while delivering the judgment held that the trial court did not properly evaluate the evidence.In reaching its decision, the court considered four issues for determination, including whether under Section 16(1)(A) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, approval for spending over the threshold constitute an offence.

Justice Nimpar considered whether the trial 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.”

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