A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday, fixed Dec. 12 to deliver ruling in a fundamental rights suit filed by an ex-Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo.
The respondents in the suit are the Attorney-General of the Federation, EFCC, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff.
Tompolo is praying the court for an order to stop a N12 billion fraud charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the EFCC had preferred a 40-count fraud charge against the ex-Niger Delta militant.
Charged alongside Tompolo is Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General of NIMASA, Global West Vessel, Odimiri Electrical Ltd, Kime Engozu, Boloboere Ltd., Rex Elem, Destre Ltd, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warrendi Enisuoh.
On Jan. 14, the trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, had issued a bench warrant for Tompolo’s arrest due to his failure to appear in court to answer to the criminal charges.
Meanwhile, on April 8, Tompolo filed a fresh suit, urging the Federal High Court to halt his trial and nullify certain sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
At the resumed hearing of the case on Tuesday, Mr Tolu Mukoro, announced appearance for the office of the Attorney General, while Mr I.B Mohammed announced appearance for the EFCC.
Addressing the court on points of law, Mukoro argued that Tompolo’s application should not be granted as Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution permits the government to enact any law.
He argued that such laws include the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, adding that Tompolo could not seek to strike off the ACJA.
He submitted that Tompolo should not benefit from his wrongdoing to obtain any favour from the court since he was consistently absent in the main criminal proceedings leading to the civil suit.
For his part, Counsel to the EFCC said he would rely on paragraph 23 of his substantive counter-affidavit, which he said had aptly captured his arguments against the application for referral.
He submitted further that since the suit was commenced under the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, it could not be referred to the Court of Appeal.
Replying to arguments of respondent counsels, Tompolo’s lawyer, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, argued that Section 45 of the 1999 Constitution was inapplicable since it specifically excludes Section 36 under which Tompolo filed the case.
He argued further that Tompolo was not seeking to strike down the entire ACJA but rather two of its provisions in Sections 221 and 306, which, according to him, are unconstitutional.
After taking arguments from Counsel representing the parties, the trial judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, adjourned ruling in the case until Dec. 12.
Among other prayers, Tompolo is seeking a nullification of certain sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which he said affected his constitutional rights.
Tompolo is contending that Sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act are invalid and unconstitutional in so far as they seek to prevent the court from exercising jurisdiction to hear objections to a criminal charge.
In the new suit marked FHC/L/CS/499/2016, Tompolo is seeking the following reliefs, from the Court:
“A declaration that Section 221 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, is void to the extent that it seeks to be an absolute bar to any objection to a criminal charge or information, already filed, especially Charge No.FHC/L/553C/2015.
“A declaration that Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 is void to the extent that it seeks to be an absolute bar to an application for a stay of proceedings pending appeal to a higher court, in relation to a criminal charge.
“A declaration that the respondents are not entitled to rely upon Sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 in the prosecution of any criminal charge or information, already filed, especially Charge No.FHC/L/553C/2015.
“A declaration that the respondents are not entitled to file, initiate, prosecute or, in any other manner, pursue any criminal charge or information against the applicant in any manner that will constitute a flagrant violation of his right to fair hearing.
“An injunction restraining the respondents, whether by them or by their servants, agents or privies, from filing or further filing, prosecuting or further prosecuting any criminal charge or information against the applicant.”
Tompolo is also seeking an order to nullify, void, strike down and expunge Sections 221 and 306 from the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to the extent of their inconsistency with the Constitution.