Court renews arrest warrant against Tompolo
Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos on Monday renewed the bench warrant issued against the former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.
The judge by the decision ordered security agencies in Nigeria to compel his appearance in court on February 19.
Justice Buba renewed the order while ruling on an application challenging substituted service of a 40 count criminal charge on the accused.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a 40 count charge against Tompolo and nine others on January 11.
The charge borders on allegations of conversion and theft to the tune of over N13 billion.
Those charged together with Tompolo are former director-general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, Global West Vessel, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, Kime Engozu. Boloboere Ltd, Rex Elem, Destre Ltd, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warrendi Enisuoh.
The alleged offences are said to have contravened the provisions of sections 15, 15 (3), 18, and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act, 2012.
When the case was called on Monday, Mr Festus Keyamo announced appearance as prosecutor for the EFCC while Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) announced appearance as lead counsel for the first accused.
Oyetibo then informed the court of an application filed on January 27 on behalf of Tompolo, challenging service of the charge based on a defect in the address of service.
The prosecutor, however, opposed the application on the grounds that by the provisions of section 96 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, such application cannot be adjourned for hearing.
Commenting on the issue, Justice Buba urged counsel not to waste the time of the court on mere technicalities.
Buba said that the whole essence of substituted service was to bring to the attention of the accused, that a charge had been preferred against him.
The judge added that regardless of however the service is effected, if the accused becomes aware of it, then the purpose of service has been fulfilled.
Buba however, urged accused counsel to move his application.
Adopting his written address as his argument on the issue, Oyetibo argued that his application does not attack the competence of the charge but rather, service of the charge.
He said that the charge was effected on Agbanu Street, instead of Agbamu Street.
Oyetibo added that the residence of the accused in Warri has a black gate but that service was effected on a residence with see-through gates.
He, therefore, urged the court to hold that service of the charge was not properly effected on the first accused.
Ruling on the application, Buba dismissed the application and ordered the attendance in court of Tompolo.
“The entire gamut of this application is for the court to set aside the order granting substituted service of the charge.
“The first defendant missed the point completely; the law is that any body like the EFCC has the power to arrest anyone if it has reasonable belief that such person has committed an offence.
“On January 12 when the application for substituted service was moved, one of the averment was that the applicant was invited by the EFCC to answer to some allegations, but up till today he has not deemed it fit to honour the invitation.
“It is very clear that the order for substituted service is more than justified against a man who has refused to honour lawful invitation by the EFCC.
“Not only is the accused aware of the charge but has further briefed counsel representing him, who on his behalf, demanded for all processes filed.
“Therefore, all the authorities cited on this issue are with respect, misconceived: whether served by substituted means or not, the accused is aware of the charge.
“The application challenging service is misconceived same be and is hereby dismissed.
“The order for arrest still subsist; all authorities in Nigeria are hereby further ordered to ensure that the order of this court for the arrest of Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo is carried out to the latter,” the judge held.
The judge had on January 12 granted an order to effect service of a summons and criminal charge on the accused.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to convert and steal the said sum which is property of NIMASA.