N45.9bn fraud: We can’t bring Tompolo to court, say Lawyers

Two Lagos-based lawyers, Messrs Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, have said it is not their duty to produce a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who is on the run, before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

There is a pending 40-count of alleged N45.9bn fraud against Tompolo and nine others before Justice Ibrahim Buba, where the suspects are expected to take their plea.

But while his alleged accomplices had been attending court, Tompolo had repeatedly snubbed court summons issued on him, making the judge to issue two separate warrants for his arrest.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which charged Tompolo to court, had subsequently declared him wanted through a newspaper advertorial and also obtained a court order to confiscate all his assets pending when he will submit himself to the authority of the court.

Oyetibo and Adegboruwa had, however, gone before the Court of Appeal, seeking to void the arrest warrant issued against their client.

In a statement jointly signed by them yesterday, the two lawyers said it was the duty of the EFCC, and not theirs, to fish out Tompolo and bring him to court.

The statement was issued in reaction to suggestions that the lawyers, who had been taking instructions from Tompolo, apparently knew where he was and ought to be mandated to produce him, since efforts by security agencies to arrest him had not yielded any result.

The lawyers pointed to Paragraph 3 (b) of the Federal High Court Practice Direction 2013, which provided that, “On the date of first arraignment, the prosecutor must produce the accused person in court”.

They added that their client had the right to appeal any order of court against him, citing the case of Fawehinmi vs Attorney-General of Lagos State (1989), where the Court of Appeal held that accused persons were entitled in law to take their objection to the charge irrespective of the fact that they were not physically present in court.

 



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