Court Renews Order For Tompolo’s Arrest

TompoloA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has renewed its order to all security agencies in Nigeria to compel the attendance in court of former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.

Justice Ibrahim Buba reiterated the order, while ruling on an application challenging the substituted service of a 40-count criminal charge on the accused.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed the 40-count charge against Tompolo, Patrick Akpobolokemi and eight others.

The charge borders on allegations of conversion and theft to the tune of over N13 billion.

Counsel for Tompolo, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, had filed an application on January 27 to challenge the service of the charges on his client based on a defect in the address of service.

The lawyer argued that the charge was effected on ‘Agbanu St’, rather than ‘Agbamu St.’ in Warri, Delta State. He urged the court to hold that service of the charge was not properly effected on the first accused.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Festus Keyamo, however opposed this application.

Justice Ibrahim Buba in his ruling dismissed the application and renewed his order compelling the attendance of Tompolo in court.

The court held that “the EFCC has the power to arrest anyone if it has reasonable belief that such person has committed an offence”.

The court specifically noted that one of the submissions of the EFCC before a warrant of arrest was issued, was that despite several invitations, Tompolo failed to show up to answer to the allegations made against him.

“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 Tompolo aware of the charges, he has further briefed counsel representing him, who on his behalf, demanded for all processes filed in the matter.

“Therefore, all the authorities cited on this issue are with respect, misconceived.

“The application challenging service is hereby dismissed.

“The order for arrest still subsist; and all authorities in Nigeria are further ordered to ensure that the order of this court for the arrest of Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo is carried out to the latter,” the court held.

Tompolo’s lawyer said that he would await further briefing from his client.

Meanwhile, counsel to the former Director General of NIMASA said that the EFCC was treating his clients and the other accused persons unfairly.

The court has adjourned till February 19 when all the accused persons are expected to be arraigned.

Former NIMASA Boss’ Trial Continues

former NIMASA boss, Patrick AkpobolokemiThe trial of the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, continued at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

The second prosecution witness, a fashion designer, Chukwuemeka Onuoha told the court how his company, Extreme Vertevex Limited was used to siphon over 546,802,000 million Naira from the coffers of the NIMASA for a contract that was not awarded to him on Tuesday.

Led in evidence by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Onuoha said the money was paid into his account with Zenith Bank even though he did not tender any proposal or carried out any contract for NIMASA.

The disbursement of the money was said to have been facilitated by the 3rd defendant (Ekene Nwakuche) who was his secondary school mate.

Onuoha told the Court that he was later instructed to transfer the money to different accounts by the 3rd defendant.

Under cross examination by Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN), counsel to the first defendant, Onuoha told the Court he had never met the first defendant, (Akpobolokemi) or received any instruction from him.

Also testifying as the 3rd prosecution witness, a Bureau De Change operator, Hussein Sabo, said that on March 2014, he was approached by one Muhammed Darlington, who told him that the 2nd defendants, (Captain Ezekiel Agaba) wanted to buy dollars.

Mr Sabo in his testimony, said “Darlington collected my account numbers and several millions of Naira were paid into the account which I used to buy dollars”, he said.

He also confirmed that on March 3, 2014, monies were paid into his account namely, 33, 800,000 Naira ; 35, 000,000 Naira ; 20, 000,000 Naira and 3, 000,000 Naira respectively.

Mr Sabo also disclosed that between the month of March 2014 and December 2014, he received through his account, 85, 305,000 Naira, 155, 300,000 Naira, 13, 000,000 Naira, 10, 000,000 Naira and 84, 000, 000 Naira respectively.

Justice Ibrahim Buba has adjourned further hearing in the matter till February 2,5, 16 and 19 respectively.

The former Director-General of NIMASA and six others are standing trial over an alleged theft of 2.6 billion Naira belonging to NIMASA.

Mr Akpobolokemi was arraigned before Justice Buba along with three others – Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan – and three companies, namely Blockz and Stonz Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.

In a 22-count charge by the EFCC, they were accused of converting a total of 2, 658,957,666 Naira between December 23, 2013 and May 28 2015.

Former NIMASA Boss’ Trial Begins

former NIMASA boss, Patrick AkpobolokemiThe trial of the former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime & Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, started on Monday.

Mr Akpobolokemi was arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos along with three others – Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan – and three companies, namely Blockz and Stonz Limited, Kenzo Logistics Limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.

The former Director General of NIMASA was also accused of defrauding the Federal Government to the tune of 795.2 million Naira.

The court sitting how part of the 2.6 billion Naira allegedly stolen by Mr Akpobolokemi was disbursed.

In a 22-count charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), they were accused of converting a total of 2,658 billion Naira between December 23, 2013 and May 28, 2015.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Disbursements

The EFCC opened trial with its first witness, Teslim Ajuwon, who was the Compliance Officer at Zenith Bank.

Mr Ajuwon said he was responsible for inquiries from regulatory agencies such as the EFCC, the police, NDLEA, among others.

He said he received inquiries from EFCC for a report of activities on some accounts, including Aruwo Consulting Limited, Extreme Vertex Limited, Southern Options Limited, Green Lemon Services and Committee on ISPS.

Mr Ajuwon further said that the bank received a request to produce account opening package of the companies as well as their financial statements.

The witness said the fourth defendant, Governor Juan, was paid 11 million Naira on September 9, 2014, while Kenzo Logistics, also a defendant, got 10 million Naira the same day.

For the Committee on ISPS account, there was an inflow of 14.2 million Naira on June 17, 2014 from Access Bank; 21.2 million Naira on March 5, 2015; 16 million Naira on May 5, 2015; and 21.2 million Naira on June 18, 2015.

He said the monies were later disbursed, leaving only 1.4 million Naira as balance on June 18, 2015.

Mr Ajuwon said that 10 million Naira was transferred to Uchenna Emenalo on June 19 while another 11 million Naira was transferred to him the same day.

He said on August 29, 2014, there was a credit of 795.2 million Naira into the Committee on ISPS account from NIMASA.

The witness said it was followed by several payments amounting to 27 million Naira to Ekene Nwauche between September 16 and November 18, 2014.

According to him, 318 million Naira was paid to Extreme Bracket on November 6, 2014, while Avant Guard Security Services got 94 million Naira.

Several other companies also received payments. According to the witness, on January 8, 2015, Soko Global Services got 15.7 million Naira; Alfa Convoy got 6.9 million Naira; R-World Consulting got 70 million Naira, while O2 Services Plus Limited got 21.2 million Naira on March 5, 2015.

Mr Ajuwon further explained that on May 28, 2015, NIMASA made a lodgment of 447 million Naira, which was also disbursed to different companies.

They include 95 million Naira to Avant Guard on May 28, 2015; 46 million Naira to R-World Consulting; and seven million Naira to Green Lemon Consulting.

During cross-examination by Mr Akpbolokemi’s lawyer, the witness said he did not see the first accused’s name in the documents he tendered.

“I’ve looked through Exhibits 1-12, I did not see the name of the first defendant,” he said.

Justice Buba, however, adjourned the case till Tuesday, January 19, 2016 for continuation of the trial.

Scam: Court Orders Tompolo To Appear On Thursday

TompoloThe Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has summoned former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo to appear before it.

Justice Ibrahim Buba asked Tompolo to appear before him on Thursday, January 14, to answer to a 40-count charge of unlawful conversion brought against him by the EFCC.

He also granted leave to EFCC to serve Tompolo the summons and the charges through substituted means by “affixing same on the conspicuous part of his last known address situated at 1, Chief Agbanu DDPA Extension Warri, Delta State”.

The judge issued the summons following an application filed by the EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedipo, who alleged that they have not been able to serve Tompolo with a copy of the charge.

The commission also informed the court that Tompolo had so far, refused to honour several invitations extended to him for questioning.

Accused Persons

The anti-graft agency had in December 2015 filed a case against Tompolo, a former boss of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi and eight others for allegedly converting to personal use, the sums of $108.7 million and 2.1 billion Naira belonging to NIMASA.

Other accused persons were: Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electricals Limited, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Ltd, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Ltd, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by its prosecutor, Festus Keyamo.

In 16 of the counts, the agency alleged that Ekpemupolo, Akpobolokemi, Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, Boloboere Property Estate, Kime Engozu, and Simon John Adomene, who is currently at large, conspired among themselves between 2012 and 2014 to commit the offence, knowing that the two sums of money were proceeds of stealing.

In counts 17-38 of the criminal charges, Rex Elem, Gregory Mbonu, and Destre Consult Ltd were alleged to have converted the sum of 106.8 million Naira, the property of Global West Vessel Specialist Ltd, despite knowing that the sum was derived from official corruption.

In counts 39 and 40, the EFCC alleged that Captain Warredi Enisuoh converted the sum of eight million Naira, property of Global West Vessel Specialist, knowing that the money was derived from official corruption.

According to the EFCC, the offences alleged to have been committed by the accused persons were contrary to and punishable under the Money Laundering Act of 2012.

Akpolobokemi is currently facing two different charges of stealing and conversion of money running into billions of Naira before the same court.

Akpobolokemi and nine others were first arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu on December 3, 2015 on a 30-count charge of conspiracy, criminal conversion and laundering the sum of 3.1 billion Naira.

The EFCC claimed that the accused persons allegedly conspired among themselves to convert and launder the sum under the guise of providing security intelligence around the maritime domain.

On December 4, 2015, the anti-graft agency also arraigned the form NIMASA DG and five others before Justice Buba on a 22-count charge of stealing the sum of 2.5 billion Naira.

Akpolobokemi and other accused persons have, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Navy Arrest Ship, Crew In Delta State

Navy Arrest Ship Laden With Suspected Crude OilThe Nigerian Navy has arrested a ship loaded with 670 metric tonnes of product suspected to be crude oil on the Forcados River in Delta State.

The detention of the 106 meters long boat named Eyuwa was made by men of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta on December 14.

The Flag Officers Commanding Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, made the disclosure while conducting reporters round the detained ship.

The Commander, NNS Delta, Commodore Rahimi Muhammed, also expressed joy that the Nigerian Navy is relentlessly winning the war against criminal elements sabotaging the nation’s economy.

Men of the Nigerian Navy Ship, Beecroft, had during a routine patrol, intercepted a vessel, MT Asteris, and its crew in Lagos on March 26 while trying to export the stolen product.

They were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on June 18 before the Federal High Court on a four count charge of conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products.

In his ruling, Justice Ibrahim Buba sentenced the five Filipinos and four Bangladeshi nationals to a jail term of five years each on the four counts with an option of a five million Naira fine for each count.

The sentences were to run concurrently as the convicts could either choose to spend five years each in prison or pay the fine of 20 million Naira each.

Court Convicts Nine Foreigners For Crude Oil Theft

Court Convicts Nine Foreigners For Illegal crude Oil DealingA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has convicted and sentenced nine foreigners for stealing 3,423.097 metric tonnes of crude oil from Nigeria.

The vessel, MT Asteris, and its crew were intercepted by the Nigerian Navy Ship, Beecroft, during a routine patrol in Lagos on March 26, while trying to export the stolen product.

Upon interrogation, the Captain or any of the crew members could not produce any relevant document authorising the lifting and destination of the petroleum products they had on board.

They were arrested and after investigation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on June 18 arraigned the foreigners and their vessel before Justice Ibrahim Buba on a four-count charge of conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products, an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 17 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act of 2004.

When the charges were read to the accused persons, they all pleaded not guilty and were granted bail in the sum of 50 million Naira each.

Their trial commenced on June 23 and the EFCC called six witnesses in proof of its case against the foreigners before the court finally arrived at a guilty verdict six months later.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Buba said he was satisfied that the EFCC proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

The judge said the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were not controverted and the failure of the convicts to supply evidence that they had a lawful permit to deal in crude oil further strengthened the prosecution’s case that they were trying to export the stolen product.

Justice Buba reaffirmed the court’s commitment to sending a strong signal to Nigerians and foreigners alike that the country had laws and the laws were enforceable.

He then sentenced the five Filipinos and four Bangladeshi nationals to a jail term of five years each on the four counts with an option of a five million Naira fine for each count.

The sentences were to run concurrently as the convicts could either choose to spend five years each in prison or pay the fine of 20 million Naira each.

Their vessel and the cargo on board are to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Court Restrains Prosecution Of Synagogue Collapsed Building Engineers

SynagogueThe Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has restrained the Lagos State Government from prosecuting the two engineers who built the collapsed guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations.

Justice Ibrahim Buba on Tuesday granted an order of injunction barring the Commissioner of Police from arresting and detaining the two men.

The judge gave the ruling on an application for an injunction pending the appeal filed by the engineers.

In an earlier judgement on Fundamental Rights Enforcement suit filed by the engineers to stop their prosecution by the Government, Justice Buba held that the men “had not made a case for infringement of their fundamental human rights even on the merit of the application”.

He dismissed their applications on November 11, 2015 paving the way for their arraignment and trial.

The engineers have, however, approached the court of appeal to challenge this ruling.

Justice Buba, who granted their application to stay the proceedings against them by the Lagos State Government, said his ruling would subsist until the engineers’ appeal against his earlier ruling was determined by the Court of Appeal.

He urged the prosecution to ensure that the appeal was heard expeditiously and threatened to vacate the restraining order if the engineers failed to prosecute their appeal promptly.

On Monday the Lagos State government had sought to arraign both men, their engineering company, Hardrock Construction Company, one Jadyn Trust Limited and the registered trustees of the Synagogue Church before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.

The State government slammed a 111-count charge against them.

Their arraignment was however stalled owing to the absence of both men & their company in court.

Arraignment Of Synagogue Church Trustees Stalled

SCOAN-Collapse-2The planned arraignment of the Registered Trustees of ‎the Synagogue Church of All Nations and two engineers who constructed its collapsed six-storey building was stalled on Monday at the Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja.

The arraignment was stalled due to the absence of three out of the five defendants charged by the Lagos State Government.

While the registered trustees of the church and Jadny Trust Limited, the first & second defendants were represented by counsel in court, the 3rd to 5th defendants, Hardrock Construction Engineering Company and the two Engineers, Oladele Ogundeji & Akinbela Fatiregun were not represented.

The State’s Attorney General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr Niji Kazeem, told the presiding Justice, Lateef Lawal-Akapo, that the state had not been able to serve the three defendants with a copy of the charge.

Mr Kazeem said the service could not be effected because the state did not have valid addresses for them.

The court has however, directed the counsel, Mr Oluseun Abimbola, who represented the first & second defendants to furnish the prosecution with the valid addresses of the 3rd to 5th defendants.

Involuntary Manslaughter

Meanwhile, the state has slammed a 111-count charge against the accused persons.

In count one, the registered trustees of the Synagogue church and the other defendants were charged with failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 41 of the Urban & Regional Planning Law of Lagos State.

In count 2 to 111, the other accused persons were charged with involuntary manslaughter which led to the death of 116 persons mostly South Africans on September 12, 2014.

The court has been adjourned till December 11.

A statement by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Bola Akingbade, confirmed the scheduled arraignment.

Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos had earlier dismissed the fundamental human rights enforcement suits filed by the engineers who constructed the collapsed six-storey building to stop their planned trial.

Court To Rule On Kashamu’s Human Rights Suit Nov 18  

KashamuA Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed November 18, 2015, to rule on the fundamental human rights case filed by Senator Buruji Kashamu against the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).

Senator Kashamu is praying for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the NDLEA and the AGF from taking over his property, including a 24-flat housing estate at Egbe and several hectares of land on Lekki Peninsula, Lagos, worth over 20 billion naira.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, adjourned the case for ruling, after hearing the arguments of both parties.

The AGF in its preliminary objection, said that Senator Kashamu’s suit is premature, incompetent and an abuse of court processes and asked the court to dismiss it.

Meanwhile, Senator Kashamu’s lawyer, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede, said that his client was in court to protect his fundamental right to own property as enshrined under Sections 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution.

A judge of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Justice Ibrahim Buba, had earlier refused to disqualify himself from adjudicating on the suit.

He restrained the NDLEA from arresting or extraditing Kashamu to the United States of America, where he was allegedly wanted.

But the NDLEA asked the judge to ‘hands off’ the trial.‎ It said that since Justice Buba, on June 23, reaffirmed a May 27 order by Justice Okon Abang of the same court, stopping Kashamu’s arrest, he might not be fair in the case.

Kashamu’s Drug Case: Judge Vows Not To ‘Hands Off’

KashamuA judge of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Justice Ibrahim Buba, has refused to disqualify himself from adjudicating on a suit filed by Senator Buruji Kashamu.

Senator Kashamu wants the court to restrain the Federal Government from seizing his properties over drug trafficking allegations.

He sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Attorney-General of the Federation from taking possession of his properties

‘Hands Off’

Justice Buba had earlier restrained the NDLEA from arresting or extraditing Kashamu to the United States of America, where he is allegedly wanted.

But the NDLEA asked the judge to ‘hands off’ the trial.‎ It said since Justice Buba, on June 23, reaffirmed a May 27 order by Justice Okon Abang of the same court stopping Kashamu’s arrest, he might not be fair in the case.

The Agency claimed the injunction amounted to preventing federal agencies from discharging their constitutional duties.

The NDLEA also asked the judge to withdraw from the case on the basis that he might not reach a different conclusion in the fresh case having ruled in Kashamu’s favour once.

It requested that the case file be returned to the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for reassignment to another judge.

Refusing the application, Justice Buba said he would not shy away from deciding a case merely because of an unsubstantiated accusation of bias.‎ He dismissed the application, saying it lacked merit.

Meanwhile, Senator Kashamu has alleged that there was a move by the NDLEA and AGF to seize his property, including a 24-flat housing estate at Egbe and several hectares of land on Lekki Peninsula, Lagos.

According to him, he acquired the property, which he said was worth 20 billion Naira, by dint of hard work and through his legitimate business.

He said contrary to the NDLEA’s claims, the property were not proceeds of drug trafficking.

Mr Kashamu’s application would be heard by the court on Wednesday.

Court Dismisses Synagogue Engineers’ Bid To Evade Prosecution

Court Dismisses Synagogue Engineers’ Bid To Evade ProsecutionThe Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed the fundamental human rights enforcement suits filed by the engineers who constructed the collapsed six-story building at the Synagogue Church Of All Nations.

The collapse of the building, which occurred on September 12, 2014 in Ikotun area of Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial city, led to the death of 116 persons in which most of them were foreigners.

Criminal Negligence

The Lagos State Government had promptly set up a Coroner’s Inquest to unravel what went wrong.

The Coroner Magistrate, Oyetade Komolafe, through a verdict delivered on August 7, 2015, indicted the engineers and the church and recommended them for investigation and prosecution for criminal negligence.

The engineers, Mr Oladele Ogundeji and Mr Akinbela Fatiregun, swiftly filed two separate suits before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, seeking an order restraining the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them over the victims’ death.

In his ruling on the defendants’ preliminary objection, Justice Buba held that the engineers “had not made out a case of infringement of their fundamental rights even on the merit of the application”.

He also held that the Coroner Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly which was constitutionally empowered to make laws in the state, adding that “the Federal High Court cannot dabble into the affairs of the state to start dishing out injunctive orders”.

The judge then maintained that the prayers by the engineers, asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Lagos State Attorney General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against them, cannot be granted in the circumstance of the case under review.

The Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, subsequently hailed Justice Buba on his verdict.

He said that the State government would immediately seek the arraignment and prosecution of the suspects at the Lagos High Court, where charges were already pending before Justice Lawal Akapo.

Stanbic IBTC vs. FRCN: Court Fails To Sit 

StanbicThe Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday failed to sit to hear a suit instituted by Stanbic IBTC against the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, FRCN, and National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, NOTAP.

Presiding Justice Ibrahim Buba was absent and the proceedings had to be adjourned to Wednesday, November 4.

In the suit, Stanbic IBTC Bank is asking the court to determine, among others, whether FRCN has the power to impose a fine of 1 billion Naira on it.

FRCN had last week sanctioned Stanbic IBTC over its audited accounts for 2013 and 2014 and suspended the financial reporting numbers of the bank’s Chairman, Mr. Atedo Peterside, and its Chief Executive, Mrs Sola David-Borha, and also barred them from vouching for the integrity of any financial statements in Nigeria.

The body also suspended two other directors – Mr. Arthur Oginga and Dr. Daru Owei – for attesting to what it termed the “misleading”  2013 and 2014 financial accounts of the bank, as well as Ayodele Othihiwa of KPMG professional services for his firm’s alleged complicity in the infractions highlighted in the financial reports for the two-year period.

It based its sanctions on issues raised by the bank’s minority shareholders led by the Mahtani brothers who own the Churchgate conglomerate, to some other regulatory agencies such as NOTAP, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), among others.