The Federal High Court in Lagos Thursday ordered the arrest of a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Oweize Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo).
Justice Ibrahim Buba issued a bench warrant for his arrest after he failed to report in court to face criminal charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge had, on Wednesday, summoned Tompolo, ordering him to appear Thursday, but the accused did not turn up.
EFCC’s lawyer Festus Keyamo informed the court that the summons and charge were duly affixed on a conspicuous part of Tompolo’s home at 1, Chief Agbanu DDPA Extension, Warri, Delta State as ordered by the court.
He said Tompolo ignored previous invitations by EFCC during investigation and failed to report to make a statement.
“We were able to go to Warri Wednesday and pasted the processes on his wall. We took photographs of them as ordered by this court,” Keyamo said.
An affidavit, including picture evidence confirming the substituted service, was tendered before the court.
“In view of the absence of the first accused (Tompolo) despite being served, may we come under Section 141 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 to apply for a warrant of arrest.
“Even at the the point of investigation, the accused person spurned all invitations to him. Now he has also disobeyed the court. We, therefore, apply under Section 141 so that we can compel his attendance,” Keyamo said.
Other accused in the matter include a former Director-General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Akpobolokemi; Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electricals Limited, Kemi Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Limited, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.
They were all in court and represented by counsel, except Tompolo.
Akpolokemi’s lawyer, Dr Joseph Nwobike (SAN), said though he was not representing Tompolo, it would be in the interest of justice if the former militant leader was given more time to attend to court having only been served with the summons a day earlier.
“A person served in Warri may need some time to come to court, moreso when he is outside jurisdiction,” he said.
But Keyamo pointed out that before the summons was issued, Tompolo had acted like an “outlaw”.
“He took an advert and said nobody should push him to the wall. Let us see whether he’s an outlaw or whether he’s withing the law,” he said.
Ruling, Justice Buba said there was evidence that Tompolo had consistently spurned EFCC’s invitations, so he has no option than to order his arrest.
He held: “The process is to serve him with summons to appear. Where he appears, that is the end of the matter. He will answer the charges. Where he fails to appear in obedience to the summons, the other process is to compel his attendance by way of arrest.
“There’s an affidavit showing the first defendant was served as ordered by the court. In the circumstance, the court is in a position to exercise his discretion to order for the arrest of Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) to compel his attendance to answer the allegations before the court.
“It is so hereby ordered that the warrant of arrest of Government Oweize Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) shall be issued forthwith.”
EFCC, in the 40-count charge, said the suspects allegedly diverted N34 billion, which accrued from a public private partnership agreement between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist Limited for personal use.
The alleged offence contravenes Section 15 (1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Keyamo told newsmen that Tompolo was not above the law, and that no individual is bigger than the country.
“One person cannot be bigger than the country. It’s for security agencies to prove that they are in charge of law enforcement in the country,” Keyamo said.
Justice Buba adjourned till February 8.