A former militant leader declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has headed to the Court of Appeal seeking to set aside the warrant of arrest issued against him.
Government Ekpemupolo (also known as Tompolo) is also asking that the charges against him be transferred to a different judge.
“Meanwhile, his team of solicitors have been instructed to expedite the process of hearing the said appeal, at the earliest possible time,” Ebun Adegboruwa, Mr. Ekpemupolo’s lawyer, said in a statement on Sunday.
“He is a law abiding citizen who is only demanding that the Federal Government should show compliance with the rule of law and due process, in the filing and prosecution of any crime that may be alleged against him.
“The relevant law enforcement agencies are being notified with the details of the appeal, so that they may be well cautioned from taking undue advantage of the criminal charge to wreck havoc upon Gbaramatu kingdom or to harass the family, relatives, friends and well wishers of Tompolo.
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.
A federal court had, on January 14, issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Ekpemupolo after he shunned an invitation to appear before the court.
On February 8, Justice Ibrahim Buba renewed the arrest warrant and a few days later, the EFCC declared Mr. Ekpemupolo wanted.
At the last court sitting, on February 19, the Commission told Justice Ibrahim Buba that the whereabouts of the ex-militant leader remained unknown.
“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,” said Festus Keyamo, lawyer to the EFCC.
“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.”
With Mr. Ekpemupolo being at large, the EFCC secured an order for substituted service of the witness summons from the judge.
The Commission’s operatives travelled to Warri, Delta State, and pasted the summons at his gate at No.1 Chief Agbamu Close, DDPA Extension, Warri, “as ordered by the court,” according to Mr. Keyamo.
Mr. Ekpemupolo said he’s challenging the federal court’s ruling which dismissed his application to set aside the warrant for his arrest.
In the notice of appeal filed on his behalf by the law firms of Mr. Adegboruwa and Tayo Oyetibo, the former militant leader said the court erred in law by refusing to set aside the arrest warrant, when there was no evidence to show he had been notified of the summons and the criminal charge pending before him.
Joined as respondents in the appeal are the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Patrick Akpobolokemi, Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, and Kime Engozu.
Others are Boloboere Property and Estate Ltd, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Ltd, Gregory Mbonu, and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.
“Tompolo also complained that the learned trial court should have ascertained that the EFCC duly complied with the order of the court for substituted service, by posting the charge at the correct address as contained in the order of the court,” the statement said.
“Tompolo stated further that the application leading to the issuance of the warrant of arrest was not competently placed before the court, as the counsel that signed and filed it on behalf of the EFCC failed to affix his seal thereto, as required by law.”
The lawyers further argued that the summons and criminal charge were not pasted at the property on No.1 Chief Agbamu Close, DDPA Extension, Warri, Delta State.
“The premises shown in the picture exhibited to the affidavit of service as the place where service was purportedly effected is situated at Rifevie Close DDPA Warri Delta State which is not less than 500 metres away from Chief Agbamu Close Warri.
“The decision of the learned trial judge refusing to set aside the purported service is, with respect, perverse.”