The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has overturned the five-year conviction of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Omatseye, for alleged contract splitting.
The appellate court discharged and acquitted Mr Omatseye of all the 24 counts for which he was convicted at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
In discharging Mr Omatseye, the appeal court set aside the May 20, 2016, judgment of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia which convicted the ex-NIMASA DG on charges bordering on bid rigging and contract splitting.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia had found Omatseye culpable in a N1.5billion contract scam.
She ruled that he awarded contracts above the stipulated N2.5million threshold in violation of certain provisions of the Public Procurement Act and accordingly, convicted him on 24 out of 27 counts but discharged and acquitted him of three others.
But the appellate court held, among others things that the trial court did not properly evaluate the evidence.
The court, presided over by Justice Yargata Nimpar, resolved all five grounds of appeal in Mr Omatseye’s favour.
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 Yargata Nimpar, who read the judgment, considered whether the trial court properly evaluated the evidence.
“I found that it did not,” she said.
She added, “The long and short of it is that, the appeal succeeds. 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 Former DG’s supporters, who had turned up in court, burst out into jubilation after the judgment was delivered.