The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Friday told a federal judge that the whereabouts of Government Ekpemupolo, a former militant leader, were unknown.
Festus Keyamo, counsel to the EFCC, said a combined team of Nigerian police and military officers had been combing the creeks for weeks without success.
The judge had issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Ekpemupolo (also known as Tompolo) on February 8 after he shunned repeated invitations to appear before the EFCC for questioning.
Last week, the commission declared the ex-militant wanted.
“We wish to inform the court that the warrant of arrest that this court issued in respect of the first defendant (Mr. Ekpemupolo) has not been executed despite the best efforts of all the security agents in this country,” Mr. Keyamo told the judge on Friday.
“Every security agent in this country is involved in the search for the first defendant. What is unfolding is something that has never been seen before in this country for a very long time.”
Mr. Ekpemupolo and Patrick Akpobolokemi, the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, are accused of a multibillion naira fraud at the agency.
Others charged alongside them are Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Ltd, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Ltd, Gregory Mbonu, and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.
At the last court sitting, Tayo Oyetibo, who represented Mr. Ekpemupolo prayed the court to set aside an order of substituted service which the judge had earlier granted against his client.
In a short ruling, Justice Ibrahim Buba dismissed the application and renewed a warrant order it had earlier issued on the former militant leader.
“Up till today the first defendant has refused to honour the invitation of the court to appear before it,” the judge had 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.”
On Friday, no lawyer announced appearance for Mr. Ekpemupolo, a situation the prosecution noted was disrespectful to the court.
“Having registered his appearance at the last sitting, the very senior counsel (Mr. Oyetibo) ought to have come to withdraw his appearance,” Mr. Keyamo said.
With Mr. Ekpemupolo still at large, Mr. Keyamo moved a motion for an adjournment to enable the prosecution separate the charges “so we can go on with the other accused persons”.
The prosecution counsel also filed an application urging the court to order the seizure of all identified properties belonging to Mr. Ekpemupolo.
The assets listed include property at No. 1 Chief Agbamu Close DDPA Extension Warri (Effurun), Delta State; all properties of Muhaabix Global Services Ltd; a River Crew Change Boat named MUHA – 15; the property known as “Tompolo Dockyard”, by the end of Enerhen Road, Effurun, Warri.
Others are a property known as “Tompolo Yard”, at the end of Chevron Clinic Road, next to Next Oil, Edjeba, Warri; the Diving School at Kurutie, at Escravos River; the property known as “Tompolo House” at Oporaza Town, opposite the Palace; and any other property discovered by the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission, moveable and immoveable, belonging to the first accused person.
“This application is to further secure the attendance of the first accused person. The law says that the court can order the confiscation of his properties until he appears,” Mr. Keyamo said.
“Any third party can bring an application later, but we have intelligence reports that those properties and companies belong to the first accused person.
“If he fails to appear within three months, the federal government will auction off all the assets.”
In his ruling, the judge granted the order for the seizure of all the listed properties and adjourned till March 22 for the separation of the charges on the defendants.