Regardless of his continual absence from court, former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, was, on Monday, arraigned before a Federal High Court in absentia on 22 counts of N47.6 billion fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Also arraigned in absentia regarding the alleged fraud were six brothers of a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi – Igo, Julius, Victor, Norbert, Emmanuel and Clement.
Tompolo, Igo, Julius, Victor, Norbert, Emmanuel and Clement were, however, declared as being “now at large” when the charges were read against them.
But Akpobolokemi himself, and two others, Josephine Otuaga and Rita Uruakpa; and Kime Engozu, who were also listed as defendants in the amended charge, were present in court, on Monday, to answer to the charges.
The other defendants in the charge were 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, advanced fee fraud and money laundering.
In one of the counts, 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 N11.9 billion to them.
The EFCC claimed that the accused induced the Federal Government by falsely pretending to the Federal Government that a parcel of land and its appurtenances situated at Mieka Dive Training Institute, Kurutie, Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State, had been acquired by NIMASA for the temporary campus of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, by allegedly making fraudulent and false representations to the Federal Government. The EFCC said the defendants violated Section 1 (b) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other fraud related Offences Act, 2006 and were liable to punishment under Section 1(3) of the same Act.
In another count, the EFCC accused the defendants of fraudulently converting a sum of N13,027,564,822 belonging to NIMASA to their private use sometimes, in 2014.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
The defendants were also accused of swindling the Federal Government to the tune of N11.940 billion, 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.
For the alleged offence, the EFCC said the defendants were liable to being punished under Section 1(2)(c) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
But Akpobolokemi and his alleged accomplices pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, subsequently admitted them to bail.
Akpobolokemi, who had earlier been arraigned along with others by the EFCC at two different times before Justice Buba, was allowed to continue with a bail granted him by the judge on March 22, 2016.
While the second defendant, Engozu, who had also been earlier arraigned, was also allowed to continue with the bail granted him on March 22, 2016.
The third and fourth defendants, Otuaga and Uruakpa, were granted a N50 million bail each with one surety in like sum.
The judge said the surety must be resident in Lagos and must own a developed landed property and swear to an affidavit of means.
The defendants and the sureties were asked to submit their passport photographs to the court.
Justice Buba subsequently adjourned the case till May 30 and 31, 2016.