A Federal High Court in Lagos, Monday, dismissed an objection by Government Ekpemupolo (also known as Tompolo) to his arrest brought and renewed a warrant order it had earlier issued on the former militant leader.
Judge Ibrahim Buba said the application by Mr. Ekpemupolo’s lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, urging the court to set aside an order of substituted service was “misconceived, misplaced, and misapplicable.”
“Up till today the first defendant has refused to honour the invitation of the court to appear before it,” 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.”
Mr. Buba adjourned till February 19th and ordered all the relevant security agencies to produce Mr. Ekpemupolo.
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 the duo are Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Ltd, Gregory Mbonu, and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.
Festus Keyamo, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said all the accused persons reported to the Commission’s office by 7 a.m. on Monday ahead of their court appearance, except Mr. Ekpemupolo.
The former militant leader had continued to ignore the court’s order for his appearance.
However, unlike previous court sittings, he sent a lawyer to represent him on Monday.
Mr. Oyetibo, a senior advocate of Nigeria, announced his intention to challenge the manner in which the prosecution effected the court’s order for substituted service on his client.
“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,” said Mr. Oyetibo.
“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.”
The judge, however, made it clear he would not entertain any attempt to delay the trial, adding that the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 had ushered in “change.”
He dismissed Mr. Oyetibo’s application.
Mr. Keyamo had earlier told the judge that Mr. Ekpemupolo’s continued shunning of the court as well as EFCC’s invitations were an affront on the judiciary.
He also urged Mr. Oyetibo to sign an undertaking that he would produce his client at the next adjourned date, a request the latter flatly turned down.
“It is the duty of the prosecution to produce the defendant, not his counsel.”
Speaking to journalists after the court’s sitting, Mr. Keyamo said Mr. Ekpemupolo can no longer be issuing directives “from the comforts of his bedroom.”
“His lawyer refused to an undertaking to produce him in court, so everybody is avoiding Tompolo,” Mr. Keyamo said.
“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.”
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