The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on Thursday overturned the five-year jail sentence slammed on a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General, Temisan Raymond Omatseye, for alleged contract splitting.
The appellate court discharged and acquitted Omatseye of all the 24- count charge for which he was convicted at the lower court.
It set aside the May 20, 2016 judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos, which convicted Omatseye for bid rigging and contract splitting.
Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia had found Omatseye culpable in a N1.5 billion contract scam following his arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
She ruled that the ex-NIMASA chief awarded contracts above the stipulated N2.5million threshold and, accordingly, convicted him in 24 out of 27 counts but discharged and acquitted him in three others.
But the appellate court held among others 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 the appellant’s favour.
Other members of the three-man panel were Justice Adejumo Obaseki and Justice Abraham Georgewill.
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 constituted an offence.
Justice Yargata Nimpar, who read the judgment, considered whether the trial court properly evaluated the evidence.
She said: “I found that it did not.”
“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.”
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