A former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to nullify sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which he said violated his constitutional rights.
He is seeking 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 1999 Constitution.”
Section 221 states: “Objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on the ground of an imperfect or erroneous charge” while Section 306 reads: “An application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before a court shall not be entertained.”
Tompolo is contending that the sections are unconstitutional because they seek to prevent the court from exercising its jurisdiction to entertain any objection to a criminal charge and an application for a stay of proceedings pending appeal.
He is, thus, asking the court to stop his trial until the determination of these issues.
The Federal Government, Attorney-General of the Federation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff are the respondents.
EFCC, on March 22, arraigned Tompolo in absentia over N34billion fraud after he failed to turn up despite being declared wanted. He was said to be “at large”.
He was charged along with a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General Patrick Akpobolokemi; Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electricals Limited and Kemi Engozu.
EFCC, in the 40-count charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba, said they allegedly diverted N34 billion for personal use, adding that the money accrued from the public private partnership agreement between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist, said to be owned by Tompolo.
Before then, Justice Buba had, on January 14, issued a warrant for Tompolo’s arrest. But Tompolo, on January 27, filed an application to set the warrant aside. On February 8, Justice Buba dismissed the application. Tompolo thereafter appealed the ruling on February 18.
In the fresh application filed through his lawyer Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Tompolo is praying the court to declare that Section 221 of the ACJA constitutes a flagrant violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed under Sections 36(1), (4) and (6) of the 1999 Constitution.
He said the Act “seeks to be an absolute bar to any objection to a criminal charge or information, already filed” against him and others.
He also wants the court to hold that the AGF and EFCC are not entitled to deploy, use, cite or in any other manner rely on sections 221 and 306 of the ACJA in the prosecution of any criminal charge or information against him and others in any manner that will constitute a flagrant violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing.
He is seeking an injunction restraining the respondents from filing, prosecuting or further prosecuting any criminal charge or information against him and others, the prosecution of which may constitute a flagrant violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed by sections 36(1), (4) and (6) of the 1999 Constitution and Article VII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
No date has been fixed for the new case.
Another charge bordering on stealing, advanced fee fraud and money laundering involving about N22.7billion is still pending against Tompolo before Justice Buba.
The judge had adjounrned until April 18 for Tompolo’s arraignment on the 22-count charge.
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