As a result of the failure of the Niger-Deltal ex-militant, Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo, to respond to invitations to show up in court on Monday, a fresh warrant of arrest has been issued by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, to all Nigerian law enforcement agencies to make sure that Tompolo was brought before the court on 9th of February.
On the 12th of January, the suspects, including Tompolo, was issued a court summon to appear in court on the 14th of the same month but while others were present in court, Mr. Ekpemupolo was not seen. As a result, Judge Buba issued a warrant for Tompolo to be produced in court on Monday, 9th February.
According to counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Festus Keyamo, all the accused persons reported to the office of the EFCC by 7 a.m on Monday prior to their court appearance, except Mr. Government Ekpemupolo.
However, instead of making an appearance in court, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), on behalf of his client, Tompolo, presented an application beseeching the judge to set aside the arrest warrant issued against him.
Ibrahim Buba rejected the application, describing it as “misconceived, misplaced, and misapplicable”, reason being that, “Up till today the first defendant has refused to honour the invitation of the court to appear before it.”
As the judge said,
The whole essence of service is to make the person aware of charges facing him. By bringing an application before the court, the first defendant had become aware of the charge before the court.
The judge had formerly given an order for the arrest of the the ex-mafia on January 14, but according to Mr. Government’s lawyer on Monday while arguing the application, he (Tompolo) had not been properly served with the summons as the EFCC pasted the charge sheets and summons at the wrong address. In the words of Oyetibo,
On January 12, this court made a specific order for substituted service on the first defendant to be pasted on the gate of No.1 Agbamu street in Warri, Delta State.
In purported execution of that order, the prosecution deposed an affidavit of service on 14th January and exhibited a photograph of the premises to which the service was pasted.
The building shown in the photograph is a completely different property.
The question is whether the prosecution has carried out the order made by this court. If the answer is yes, then we can proceed with the hearing of this matter.
Based on his argument, Oyetibo made a plea for the court to rule that his client was not served and that the warrant was not supposed to have been issued.
Nevertheless, Justice Buba dismissed the application, making it clear that he will not give room for anyone to slow down the speed of the trial, adding that Oyetibo’s presence in court was because he was briefed by Tompolo, and therefore, Tompolo could not in any way claim ignorance of the charge pending against him.
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 anybody 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 averments 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 subsists. 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 letter.
Keyamo, who earlier told the judge that the consistent refusal of Mr. Ekpemupolo to respect the invitations from the EFCC and also the court was an insult to the judiciary, also asked Tompolo’s lawyer to endorse an undertaking that he would produce his client in court on the next adjourned date. But in defence , Oyetibo said,
It is the duty of the prosecution to produce the defendant, not his counsel.
At the end of the court session, Mr. Keyamo, while speaking to journalists said Mr. Ekpemupolo can no longer be issuing directives “from the comfort of his bedroom.”
His lawyer refused to an undertaking to produce him in court, so everybody is avoiding Tompolo, so the security forces should make sure they produce him before the court, and that is the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Inspector General of Police, the Director of State Security Services, the EFCC, and all other…. They should produce him before the court.
This is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, no one person, I repeat, no one person is above the law. It’s not possible. They should produce him.
The judge Buba adjourned the case till February 19th.
Tompolo is wanted by the court over an alleged N34bn fraud, which he supposedly carried out between 2012 and 2015, in alliance with the immediate-past Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi, Kime Engozu, , Rex Elem, , Gregory Mbonu, and Captain Warredi Enisuoh. The suspects were charged together with four companies: Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited and Destre Consult Limited.