Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday authorised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to seize some assets belonging to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
The judge authorised the EFCC to take possession of the concerned assets pending when Tompolo will make himself available to answer the charges of N45.9bn fraud preferred against him and nine others.
The judge said if Tompolo failed to appear within three months of the order, the Federal Government may proceed to auction the said assets.
The assets of Tompolo which the EFCC was authorised to seize include his house located at No. 1, Chief Agbamu Close DDPA Extension Warri (Effurun), Delta State.
Others are a River Crew Change Boat named MUHA -15; “Tompolo Dockyard,” “Tompolo Yard,” the Diving School at Kurutie, at Escravos River; “Tompolo House” at Oporaza Town, opposite the Palace.
The judge said the EFCC may also seize any other assets it may later discover and verify to indeed belong to Tompolo.
The judge, however, declined to authorise the EFCC to seize four companies, which the EFCC had listed in its application as parts of Tompolo’s assets, saying one person does not own a company.
Justice Buba noted that third parties had already appeared in court to oppose the seizure of the said companies.
The said companies are Mieka Dive Ltd.; Mieka Dive Training Institute Ltd.; Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd.; and Muhaabix Global Services Ltd.
The EFCC, through its lawyer, Keyamo, had applied through an ex parte application, to the court pursuant to sections 80 and 81 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to seize Tompolo’s assets.
At the hearing on Friday, Tompolo’s lawyers, Messrs Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, were not in court.
Keyamo, while moving the application, said it would be in the interest of justice to grant it
He said, “What is unfolding before our very eyes is something that has never been seen in this country for a very long time, where a citizen disparages the order of the court, briefs lawyers to appear for him but refuses to appear, keeps making disparaging statements against the judiciary.”
In his ruling Justice Buba said he found the application to be meritorious.
The judge held, “Sections 80 and 81(ACJA) provide that a judge or a magistrate can at any time, after action has been taken under Section 41 of this Act, for an application made in that regard after summons or warrant has been issued but disobeyed, order the attachment of any property, movable or immovable, or both belonging to a suspect, the subject of public summons or warrant, while Section 81 provides an order under Section 80 of this Act to authorise a public officer to attach any property belonging to the suspect within the area of jurisdiction of the judge…
“This court has no doubt that the application has merit.”
In a five-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, a lawyer from Keyamo’s chambers,Adah Adah, said he was aware that Tompolo had been invited on several occasions by the EFCC to answer allegations of fraudulent activities.
He added that a charge had been filed against him before the court but that Tompolo had persistently refused to honour all the invitations extended to him.
Adah said he was aware that Tompolo had already briefed two lawyers, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, to represent him.
Adah said he recalled that a bench warrant was issued against Tompolo by the court on January 14, 2016.
“That since the issuance of the warrant of arrest, the 1st accused person has absconded and concealed himself from all security forces in the country to frustrate the execution of the warrant of arrest.
“That rather than present himself to the court, the 1st accused person engaged the services of Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), who filed a motion dated 27th day of January, 2016 to set aside the warrant of arrest. The said motion was dismissed on the 8th day of February, 2016.
“That since the order for the arrest of the 1st accused person, the combined team of the Nigeria police and the military have been combing the creeks and the entire nation for the arrest of the 1st accused person, but he continues to abscond and conceal himself.”
Adah said the EFCC operatives had investigated and discovered that the assets it sought to seize indeed belong to Tompolo.
He said it would be in the interest of justice for the court to grant the application.
The EFCC filed 40 counts against Tompolo and nine others, including the immediate-past Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi.
The other suspects in the charge are Kime Engozu, Rex Elem, Gregory Mbonu and Capt. Warredi Enisuoh.
The suspects were charged along with four companies, namely: Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited and Destre Consult Limited.
The suspects were accused of diverting and converting to their personal use a sum of N34bn and N11.9bn belonging to NIMASA.
The offence, according to EFCC, is contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and were liable to punishment under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.