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Trial of Tompolo, others stalled due to absence of EFCC witness

The trial of an ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who was accused of an  alleged fraud of N47.6bn was, on Thursday, stalled owing to the absence of the prosecutor of the Economic and Financial Crimes commission (EFCC).

The trial Judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba was informed by Festus Keyamo of the non availability of the witness he intends to call, thereby asking the court for an adjournment.

Justice Ibrahim Buba, adjourned the case till December 13 and 14, 2016, for trial.

It would be recalled that the EFCC had, on April 18, 2016, arraigned Tompolo in absentia on 22 counts of alleged N47.6bn fraud.

Also arraigned in absentia in relation to the alleged fraud were six brothers of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency, Patrick Akpobolokemi. They are Igo, Julius, Victor, Norbert, Emmanuel and Clement.

Tompolo, Igo, Julius, Victor, Norbert, Emmanuel and Clement were declared as being now at large when the charges were read before Justice Buba on April 18.

But Akpobolokemi himself, two other people, Josephine Otuaga and Rita Uruakpo, and Kime Engozu, who were also listed as defendants in the amended charge, were present in court on April 18 to answer to the charges.

The other defendants in the charge are five companies, namely: Mieka Dive Training Institute Ltd/GTE; Oyeinteke Global Network Limited; Wabod Global Resources Ltd.; Boloboere Properties Estate Ltd.; Gokaid Marine Oil and Gas Ltd.; and Watershed Associated Resources.

The charges bordered on conspiracy, advance fee fraud and money laundering. But the defendants who were in court pleaded not guilty to all of them.

At the hearing on Thursday, one of the defence counsels, Mr. Oyesoji Oyeleke (SAN), informed the court of a preliminary objection he filed on behalf of his client, challenging the competence of the charges.

Oyeleke is contending that the prosecution had failed to depose to an affidavit stating that it had concluded its investigation before filing the charges.

For this failure he is urging the court to strike out the entire 22 counts filed by the EFCC against his client.

Another defence counsel, Mr. Sylvester Ekweme, representing one of the Akpobolokemi’s brothers, Clement, also informed the court of his client’s bail application pending to be heard.
Ekweme said his client had been in detention since April.

Justice Buba adjourned till November 10, 2016 to take the two pending applications.

The EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired among themselves to defraud the Federal Government between December 2, 2014 and April 10, 2015, by inducing the Federal Government to deliver an aggregate sum of N11.9bn to them.

The EFCC accused the defendants of fraudulently converting a sum of N13,027,564,822 belonging to NIMASA to their private use sometime in 2014.

The defendants were also accused of swindling the Federal Government to the tune of N11.940bn, by presenting a forged Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy of Bendel State of Nigeria dated May 6, 2014 to NIMASA on the false claim that the forged document was genuine and issued by Warri South-West Local Council, Delta State.