Former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, was on Monday arraigned in absentia before a Federal High Court, Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a on 22 count charge of fraud amounting to N47.6bn.
Also arraigned in absentia alongside Government Ekpemupolo were six brothers of the immediate former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Patrick Ziadeke Akpolobokemi, who was also arraigned before the court. The brothers are Igo Akpobolokemi, Julius Akpobolokemi, Victor Akpobolokemi, Norbert Akpobolokemi, Emmanuel Akpobolokemi and Clement Akpobolokemi.
Nevertheless, when the charges were read, Mr. Government Ekpemupolo and others were all declared as being “now at large.” But Akpobolokemi himself, two women, Josephine Otuaga and Rita Uruakpa and one Kime Engozu, who were also listed as defendants in the amended charge, were present in court to answer to the charges.
The other defendants in the charge were seven limited liability companies which includes Mieka Dive Training Institute LTD/GTE, Oyeinteke Global Network Limited, Wabod Global Resources Limited, Boloboere Properties Estate Limited, Gokaid Marine and Oil and Gas Limited, Muhaabix Global Service Limited and Watershed Associated Resources.
The charges against them bordered on conspiracy, advanced fee fraud and money laundering.
In the charge, the EFCC claimed between Dec. 2, 2014 and April 10, 2015, the accused persons conspired among themselves to defraud the Federal Government and eventually succeeded in obtaining the total sum of N47,683,464,822.
The prosecution also alleged that between May 6, 2014, and December 2, 2014, the accused persons forged and uttered a Certificate of Customary Rights of Occupancy of the old Bendel State of Nigeria, and purportedly issued same to NIMASA, on the false claim that the forged document was genuine and issued by the Warri South-West Local Council, Delta State.
They were also accused of receiving the sum of N11,900,000,000 from the federal government, by falsely pretending that all the land and its appurtenances situated at Mieka Diva Training Institute in Warri had been acquired by the NIMASA. The land was said to be for construction of the temporary campus of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, which declarations were said to be false.
The EFCC also claimed that sometime in 2014, the accused persons fraudulently redirected the sum of N13 billion belonging to NIMASA into their private pockets.
According to the EFCC prosecutors, Mr. Festus Keyamo and Rotimi Oyedepo, the said offences contravened section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and also the provisions of Section 1 (b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud related Offences Act, 2006.
For the alleged offence, the EFCC said the defendants were liable to being punished under Section 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
All accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The lawyers of the accused, Dr. Joseph Nwobike, SAN, Mr. inaji E. U. and Mr. Oyesoji Oyeleke, pleaded with the court to admit them to bail. The judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba granted their request allowing Mr. Akpobolokemi, who had earlier been arraigned before him, to continue with a N50 million bail earlier granted him on March 22.
The second accused, Mr. Engozu, also earlier arraigned was allowed to continue with the same bail earlier granted him on March 22. The 3rd and 4th accused defendants, – Otuaga and Uruakpa – were granted a N50m bail each with one surety in like sum.
The judge ordered that the sureties who must be resident in Lagos and must own a developed landed property, must also swear to an affidavit of means. The defendants and the sureties were also asked to submit their passport photographs to the court.
The case was adjourned till May 30 and 31.