N45.9bn Fraud: Tompolo request change of Judge in case

FORMER Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, has urged the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal to order Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos to withdraw from the fraud charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The EFCC charged Tompolo and nine others with an alleged fraud of N45.9bn before Justice Buba.

One of his counsels, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said in a statement on Tuesday that his client had since last Friday filed his appellant’s brief of argument before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.

The implication of this, according to Adegboruwa, is that Justice Buba is expected to cease action on Tompolo’s case in deference to the appellate court.

Since the 40 counts were filed by the EFCC against Tompolo and his co-suspects early January, efforts to arraign them had proved abortive as Tompolo had repeatedly shunned the summons issued on him to appear in court.

On two occasions Justice Buba issued a bench warrant against Tompolo and ordered his arrest.

The EFCC had subsequently declared him wanted through a newspaper advertorial and obtained an order to confiscate his assets pending when he will show up and submit himself to the court.

But Tompolo, who is contending that the summons were not properly served on him, had on February 8 urged Justice Buba to set aside the warrant issued on January 14 for his arrest.

The judge, however, rejected his application and re-validated the arrest warrant.

Not pleased, Tompolo, through his lawyers, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Adegboruwa, headed for the Court of Appeal, seeking to set aside the arrest warrant.

In his statement on Tuesday, Adegboruwa said his client’s brief of argument was entered at the Court of Appeal last Friday and the EFCC had been served. According to him, the step taken by Tompolo was a demonstration of his respect for the rule of law and his desire to have his matter heard and determined expeditiously.

Adegboruwa stressed that the filing of the appeal marked CA/L/240/2016 and its acceptance by the appellate court’s registrar, Nassara Williams, on March 3, 2016, meant that Justice Buba should “cede
jurisdiction over Tompolo’s case to the Court of Appeal.”

He said, “In further demonstration of his commitment to the rule of law and due process, Tompolo filed his appellant’s brief of argument, through the law firms of Tayo Oyetibo, SAN and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Esq., on Friday, March 11, 2016, thus activating the judicial process for the prompt and effective determination of the said appeal.

“The consequence of this in law is that Tompolo’s case is now before the Court of Appeal, with the concomitant effect that the Federal High Court will willingly cede jurisdiction over Tompolo’s case, to the Court of Appeal, since the appeal has now been entered in the Court of Appeal.”

He said he and Oyetibo were awaiting the response of the EFCC so that the appeal could be heard on time.

Part of Tompolo’s prayers, according to Adegboruwa, is for the Court of Appeal to order the Chief of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign Tompolo’s case from Justice Buba to another judge.

Adegboruwa said, “Tompolo is thus asking the Court of Appeal to set aside the warrant for his arrest and vacate all subsequent proceedings emanating from the flawed process of the criminal charge.

“He is further seeking that the charge against him should be transferred from the current judge, to another judge of the Federal High Court.”

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