A Lagos Federal High Court, yesterday, ordered all security agencies in Nigeria to compel the attendance in court of ex-Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemukpolo, also known as Tompolo, charged with N34billion theft.
Justice Ibrahim Buba, who presided over the court, gave the order while ruling on an application challenging substituted service of a 40 count criminal charge on the accused.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC had filed a 40 count-charge against Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo and nine others, on January 11.
Those charged alongside Tompolo are; the immediate past Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, Global West Vessel, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Limited, Rex Elem, Destre Limited, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warrendi Enisuoh.
They were charged on alleged conversion and theft of N34 billion.
When the case was called yesterday, Mr Festus Keyamo announced appearance as prosecutor for the EFCC while Mr Tayo Oyetibo, SAN announced appearance as counsel for the first accused, Tompolo.
Oyetibo then informed the court of an application filed on January 27 on behalf of Tompolo, challenging service of the charge based on a defect in the address of service. The submission was opposed by the prosecutor.
Keyamo said he opposed the application on the grounds that by the provisions of Section 96 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, such application cannot be adjourned for hearing.
Commenting on the issue, Justice Buba urged counsels not to waste the time of the court on mere technicalities.
The judge said that the whole essence of substituted service was to bring to the attention of the accused, that a charge had been preferred against him.
The judge added that, regardless of however the service is effected, if the accused becomes aware of it, then the purpose of service has been fulfilled.
Justice Buba, however, urged accused counsel to move his application.
Adopting his written address as his argument on the issue, Oyetibo argued that his application does not attack the competence of the charge but rather, the service of the charge.
He stated that the charge was effected on Agbanu St, instead of Agbamu Street. He added that the residence of the accused in Warri has a black gate but that service was effected on a residence with see-through gates.
He, therefore, urged the court to hold that service of the charge was not properly effected on the first accused.
Ruling on the application, Buba dismissed the application and ordered the attendance in court of Tompolo.
“The entire gamut of this application is for the court to set aside the order granting substituted service of the charge.
“The first defendant missed the point completely; the law is that anybody like the EFCC has the power to arrest anyone if it has reasonable belief that such person has committed an offence.
“On January 12 when the application for substituted service was moved, one of the averments was that the applicant was invited by the EFCC to answer to some allegations, but up till today he has not deemed it fit to honour the invitation.
“It is very clear that the order for substituted service is more than justified against a man who has refused to honour lawful invitation by the EFCC.
“Not only is the accused aware of the charge but has further briefed counsel representing him, who on his behalf, demanded for all processes filed.
“Therefore, all the authorities cited on this issue are with respect, misconceived: whether served by substituted means or not, the accused is aware of the charge.
“The application challenging service is misconceived same be and is hereby dismissed.
“The order for arrest still subsists; all authorities in Nigeria are hereby further ordered to ensure that the order of this court for the arrest of Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo is carried out to the latter,” the judge held.
Justice Buba had on January 12, granted an order to effect service of a summons and criminal charge on the accused.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to convert and steal the said sum which is property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
The alleged offences are said to have contravened the provisions of Sections 15, 15 (3), 18, and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act, 2012.

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