by OLUGBENGA SOYELE,
Reprieve yesterday came the way of embattled former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Raymond Omatseye as the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal overturned the five-year conviction imposed on him by Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court.
The upper court in a unanimous verdict discharged and acquitted Omatseye of all the 24 count charge of bid rigging and contract splitting upon which he was convicted of at the lower court.
It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had re-arraigned Omatseye in 2013 before Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia on an amended 27 counts.
In the amended charge the EFCC accused him of engaging in contract splitting and bid rigging to the tune of over N1.5billion 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.
In her judgment, the trial judge found Omatseye guilty of 24 out of the 27 counts charges. She however, discharged and acquitted him on three counts bordering on bid rigging.
Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia sentenced him to five years imprisonment for each of the 24 proven counts, holding that the sentences would run concurrently.
But the Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Yargata Nimpar yesterday held among others, that the trial court did not properly evaluate the evidence.
Justice Nimpar resolved all five grounds of appeal in the appellant’s favour.