Nigeria’s most wanted ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemulopo, alias Tompolo, has commenced legal action against the Federal Government of Nigeria, challenging the N45.9bn fraud charges filed against him.
Tompolo, who approached the Federal High Court in Lagos through his lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, is seeking an order restraining the Federal Government and its agencies from further proceeding with the N45.9bn fraud charges filed against him.
The defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff.
Tompolo, through Adegboruwa, is contending that sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which prohibits him from seeking a stay of proceedings in his trial, are infringing on his constitutional rights to fair hearing.
He is urging the court to nullify sections 221 and 306 of the ACJA and restrain the Federal Government, the EFCC and the IGP from deploying those sections of the law against him.
Adegboruwa argued that sections 221 and 306 are in conflict with Section 36 of the Constitution which guarantees his client’s right to fair hearing.
The suit followed an appeal filed by Tompolo against the dismissal of his application seeking to set aside the arrest warrant issued against him by Justice Ibrahim Buba on February 8, 2016.
Tompolo is urging the Court of Appeal to not only vacate the arrest warrant issued against him but also disqualify Justice Buba from presiding over his case.
Adegboruwa said Justice Buba must suspend all actions on the charges against his client pending the decision of the Court of Appeal.
He contended further in the suit he filed on Tompolo’s behalf that the Federal Government and its agencies were “not entitled to file, initiate, prosecute or in any other manner pursue any criminal charge or information, against the applicant, in any manner that will constitute a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed under Sections 36(1), (4) and (6) as well the inherent powers of a court of law under Section 6(6)(a)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
He also sought an order “nullifying, voiding, striking down and expunging sections 221 and 306 from the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to the extent of their inconsistency with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
The EFCC had in January this year charged Tompolo alongside nine others before Justice Buba for an alleged N45.9bn since January.
But Tompolo had repeatedly spurned the summons issued on him by the court to appear to answer the charges.
Justice Buba had on two occasions, January 14 and February 8, issued a bench warrant against him and ordered his arrest.
The EFCC subsequently placed a newspaper advertorial declaring Tompolo wanted and also obtained a court order to seize all his known assets pending when he will submit himself to the court.
But efforts to arrest and produce him in court had proved abortive, a development which forced the EFCC to apply to the court to separate his trial from that of his co-accused persons.