A former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to nullify sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
He said the sections violated his constitutional rights.
Tompolo is seeking an order “nullifying, voiding, striking down and expunging the sections to the extent of their inconsistency with the 1999 Constitution”.
Section 221 says: “Objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on the grounds of an imperfect or erroneous charge.”
Section 306 says: “An application for a stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before a court shall not be entertained.”
Tompolo is contending that the sections were 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, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), inspector-general of Police, chief of Army Staff, chief of Naval Staff and chief of Air Staff are respondents.
EFCC, on March 22, arraigned Tompolo in absentia for N34 billion fraud after he failed to turn up despite being declared wanted. He was said to be “at large”.
The ex-miilitant leader was charged with a former Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General Patrick Akpobolokemi; Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electricals Limited and Kemi Engozu.
EFCC, in a 40-count charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba, said they allegedly diverted N34 billion for personal use. It added 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 , 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 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 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, he said, may constitute a flagrant violation of his 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 of stealing, advanced fee fraud and money laundering involving about N22.7 billion is pending against Tompolo before Justice Buba.
The judge adjourned until April 18 for Tompolo’s arraignment on the 22-count.