The Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday fixed December 12 for its ruling on an application filed by Government Ekpemupolo (popularly known as Tompolo), to refer his case against the Nigerian government to the Court of Appeal.
Ekpemupolo, who was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in February, had sued the Nigerian government seeking an end to his trial for alleged fraud.
The former militant is facing prosecution by the EFCC for allegedly stealing about N45 billion from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
He had ignored several court summons since February, and has been on the run ever since.
In the same month, his lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, approached the Court of Appeal, asking it to set aside the warrant of arrest issued against him.
In April, he filed an action before a federal court in Lagos asking for an interpretation and nullification of sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
He said the said sections violated his constitutional rights.
Section 221 of the law states that: “Objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on the ground that of an imperfect or erroneous charge.”
According to Section 306: “An application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before a court shall not be entertained.”
Ekpemupolo said the sections prevented the court from exercising its jurisdiction to entertain any objection to a criminal charge and an application for a stay of proceedings pending appeal.
On Tuesday, Tolu Mukoro, counsel representing the Attorney-General of the Federation, urged the court not to grant Ekpemupolo’s application on the grounds that the Nigerian Constitution permits the government to enact any law, including the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“That is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society and Tompolo cannot seek to strike down the ACJA,” he said.
Mukoro added that since the ex-militant leader had consistently failed to respond to court summons, he should not be allowed to benefit from his wrong-doing by obtaining a favour from the court.
I.B Mohammed, counsel to the EFCC, argued that since the matter commenced under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, it can no longer be referred to an appellate court.
“There is no provision in the said fundamental rights rules to justify such transfer,” Mohammed said.
In his reply, Mr. Adegboruwa said the Section 45 cited by Mukoro was inapplicable, adding that his client was not seeking to strike down the entire ACJA but two of its provisions.
Adegboruwa also argued that the EFCC could not rely on its main counter-affidavit at the interlocutory stage since the substantive case is yet to be argued.
After taking argument from all counsels, Justice Olatoregun Ishola adjourned the case to December 12, 2016, for ruling.
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