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FG seeks dismissal of Tompolo’s suit seeking to nullify sections of ACJA

A Federal High Court, sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, was on Wednesday, urged by the Federal Government to dismiss with cost, a suit filed by ex- Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemulopo, alias Tompolo seeking to nullify sections 221 and 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA).

The suit, according to government, is an abuse of court process, frivolous, time wasting, grossly misleading and erroneous in its totality.

Tompolo had in the fundamental rights enforcement suit urged the court to nullify sections 221 and 306 of the ACJA, under which he was charged, arguing that the sections were invalid, unconstitutional, because they violated his constitutional rights to fair hearing.

The ex-militant also argued that the sections were unconstitutional as they seek to prevent the court from exercising its jurisdiction to entertain any objection to a criminal charge and application for a stay of proceedings pending appeal.

Section 221 Administration of Criminal Justice Act, states that objections shall not be taken or entertained during proceedings or trial on the ground of an imperfect or erroneous charge,  while Section 306 states that “an application for stay of proceedings in respect of a criminal matter before a court shall not be entertained”.

The defendants in the suit are the Federal Government of Nigeria, the 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.

Justice Ibrahim Buba of the same court had on January 14, 2016 issued a warrant for the arrest of Tompolo after he failed to show up for his trial.

The EFCC had charged Tompolo alongside nine others for an alleged N45.9 billion fraud.

But, on January 27, 2016, Tompolo filed an application before the Court, seeking an order setting aside the said warrant of arrest.

On February 8, 2016, the said application was argued and dismissed by the Court.

Tompolo, thereafter, filed an appeal against the ruling of the Court, on February 18, 2016.

Tompolo’s appeal was entered at the Court of Appeal on March 3, 2016, following which his lawyers have filed the Appellant’s brief of argument in the said appeal, awaiting the response of the EFCC.

In the counter affidavit filed by the federal government in opposition to Tompolo’s suit, the government claimed that the sections does not infringe on the fair hearing and fundamental rights of the applicant.

The government argued that the intention of the sections were geared towards ensuring speedy and efficient dispensation of justice and to avoid malicious delay and stalling of criminal cases by parties employing frivolous and time wasting tactics to impede the course of justice.

The respondent also submitted that the sections does not shut out the applicant from contesting an alleged erroneous or defective charge, but only provides that such contest may be made after trial in a Final Address.

However, the application could not be heard on Wednesday due to the failure of the counsel to the EFCC, I. A. Mohammed to file his counter affidavit to the suit.

Based on his plead for more time to regularise his papers, the trial Judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola adjourned the case till May 19 for hearing.

In the suit Tompolo is seeking the following reliefs, a “declaration that section 221 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, is 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 – Federal Republic of Nigeria v Government Ekpemupolo (Alias Tompolo) & 9 Ors., and Charge No. FHC/L/31C/2016 – Federal Republic of Nigeria v Ekpemupolo Chief Government Oweize& 12 Ors., or to be filed against the applicant, constitutes a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed under Sections 36(1), (4) & (6) as well the inherent powers of a court of law under Section 6(6)(a)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article VII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

“An injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd& 3rd respondents whether by themselves or by their servants, agents or privies or otherwise howsoever, from filing or further filing, prosecuting or further prosecuting, any criminal charge or information, especially Charge No.FHC/L/553C/2015 – Federal Republic of Nigeria v Government Ekpemupolo (Alias Tompolo) & 9 Ors., Charge No. FHC/L/31C/2016 – Federal Republic of Nigeria v Ekpemupolo Chief Government Oweize& 12 Ors., against the applicant, the prosecution of which may constitute a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed under Sections 36(1), (4) & (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article VII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“An injunction  restraining the Respondents whether by themselves or by their servants, agents or privies or otherwise howsoever, from initiating, filing, prosecuting or further prosecuting any criminal charge or information, against the applicant, which may constitute a flagrant violation of the applicant’s fundamental right to fair hearing as guaranteed under Sections 36(1), (4) & (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article VII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

An order nullifying, voiding, striking down and expunging sections 221 and 306 from the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to the extent of their inconsistency with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”

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