Wednesday, May 4, 2016 10:42 pm
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday, fixed May 19 for the hearing of a suit by a former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, seeking enforcement of his fundamental rights.
Tompolo is seeking an order nullifying, and expunging the provisions of sections 221 and 306 from the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to the extent of their inconsistency with the Constitution.
Joined as respondents are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff and the Chief of Air Staff.
When the case was called on Wednesday, counsel from the office of the AGF, Mr Tolu Mukunolu, informed the court of his processes in response to the plaintiff’s suit.
However, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Idris Abdullahi informed the court that he was yet to regularise his processes, and prayed for an adjournment.
Consequently, Justice Ishola-Olatoregun fixed May 19 for hearing.
In his suit, Tompolo argued through his counsel, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, that the said sections were unconstitutional as they prevent a court from entertaining any objection to a criminal charge.
Section 221 provides: “Objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on the ground of an imperfect or erroneous charge.”
In the same vain, Section 306 also provides: “An application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before a court shall not be entertained.”
The AGF in its process, argued that the suit is an abuse of court process and should be dismissed.
He said a warrant of arrest was issued for Tompolo’s arrest only when he failed to appear in court to answer to criminal charges against him.
It will be recalled that Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, had on Jan. 14, issued a warrant for Tompolo’s arrest but Tompolo, on Jan. 27, filed an application to set the warrant aside.
On Feb. 8, Justice Buba dismissed the application, but Tompolo appealed the ruling on Feb.18.
Tompolo is praying the court to declare that Section 221 of the ACJA constitutes a flagrant violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed under Sections 36(1), (4) and (6) of the 1999 Constitution.
He said the Act “seeks to be an absolute bar to any objection to a criminal charge or information, already filed” against him and others.
He also wants the court to hold that the AGF and EFCC are not entitled to deploy, use, cite or in any other manner rely on sections 221 and 306 of the ACJA in the prosecution of any criminal charge or information against him in any manner that will constitute a flagrant violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing.
EFCC, had on March 22, arraigned Tompolo in absentia over N34 billion fraud after he failed to turn up inspite of being declared wanted.
He was said to be “at large” in the charge.
He was also absent on April 18 when his co-accused, a former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s (NIMASA’s) Director-General, Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, and others, were arraigned for alleged N22.7 billion fraud.
He was also said to be “at large”.