Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday authorised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to seize some assets belonging to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
The judge authorised EFCC to take possession of the assets pending when Tompolo would make himself available to answer the charges of N45.9bn fraud preferred against him and nine others by the anti-graft body.
The judge said if Tompolo failed to appear within three months of the order, the Federal Government might proceed to auction the assets.
The assets of Tompolo, which the commission was authorised to seize, include his house located at No. 1, Chief Agbamu Close, DDPA Extension, Warri (Effurun), Delta State.
Others are a River Crew Change Boat named MUHA -15; “Tompolo Dockyard,” “Tompolo Yard,” the Diving School at Kurutie, Escravos River; and “Tompolo House” at Oporaza Town opposite the Palace.
The judge said EFCC might also seize any other asset later discovered and verified to belong to the former militant leader.
The judge, however, declined to authorise EFCC to seize four companies, which the anti-graft body had listed in its application as parts of Tompolo’s assets, saying one person does not own a company.
Justice Buba noted that third parties had already appeared in court to oppose the seizure of the said companies.
The said companies are Mieka Dive Limited; Mieka Dive Training Institute Limited; Global West Vessel Specialist Limited and Muhaabix Global Services Limited.
EFCC, through its lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had applied through an ex parte application, to the court pursuant to Sections 80 and 81 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to seize Tompolo’s assets.
At the hearing on Friday, Tompolo’s lawyers, Messrs Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa were not in court.
Keyamo said it would be in the interest of justice to grant the application.
Justice Buba said he found the application to be meritorious.
The judge held, “Sections 80 and 81(ACJA) provide that a judge or a magistrate can, at any time, after action has been taken under Section 41 of this Act, for an application made in that regard after summons or warrant has been issued but disobeyed, order the attachment of any property, movable or immovable, or both belonging to a suspect, the subject of public summons or warrant, while Section 81 provides an order under Section 80 of this Act to authorise a public officer to attach any property belonging to the suspect within the area of jurisdiction of the judge…
“This court has no doubt that the application has merit.”
In a five-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, a lawyer from Keyamo’s chambers, Adah Adah, said he was aware that Tompolo had been invited on several occasions by the EFCC to answer allegations of fraudulent activities.
Adah said EFCC operatives had investigated and discovered that the assets it sought to seize indeed belong to Tompolo.
The EFCC filed 40 counts against Tompolo and nine others, including the immediate-past Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, for diverting and converting to their personal use a sum of N34bn and N11.9bn belonging to NIMASA.
The offence, according to EFCC, is contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and were liable to punishment under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.[Punch]