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N34bn fraud: Tompolo begs court to vacate arrest warrant

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  • As PDP chief: cries out: My life at risk over Ekiti poll ‘fraud’ leak

An ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, has pleaded with Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos to set aside the warrant of arrest issued against him.

Justice Buba had on January 14 issued a bench warrant against Tompolo and ordered his arrest for failing to honour a court summons dated January 12 to appear in respect of a 40-count of alleged N34bn fraud levelled against him and nine others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

On January 14, while all his co-accused persons were in court with their lawyers, Tompolo was absent and was not represented by any counsel.

The EFCC prosecutor, Festus Keyamo, had then applied under Section 131 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 for an order to arrest Tompolo and bring him to court to answer the charges against him.

While granting the order, Justice Buba had said there was a proof that the EFCC had served the summons and the charge sheet on Tompolo by pasting them on the wall of his residence at No. 1, Chief Agbanu DDPA Extension, Warri, Delta State.

The judge ordered that Tompolo should be arrested and produced in court on February 8 to answer the charges.

But Tompolo has filed an application through his lawyers, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, seeking an order of the court to set aside the warrant of arrest issued against him, on the claim that the EFCC did not serve him with the summons and the charge sheet.

In the grounds of the application, Tompolo described as fictitious the address known as No.1, Chief Agbanu DDPA Extention, Warri, Delta State, where the EFCC said it pasted the summons and the charge sheet.

“In the history or geography of Warri or its environs no such street name is known,” Tompolo claimed.

His lawyers also argued that the application filed by the EFCC to obtain the order for substituted service was incompetent because it did not bear the seal of the legal practitioner who signed it.

In an affidavit filed in support of the application, one, Nsikan Udo, who was the deponent, claimed that Tompolo resided at No. 13, Chief Agbamu Close, DDPA Extension, Warri (Effurun), Delta State and not No. 1, Chief Agbamu DDPA Extension, Warri, Delta State where the summons and the charge sheet were pasted by the EFCC.

The deponent claimed that as of January 13 when the EFCC went to paste the court papers, Tompolo was at “a premises known as No. 1, Chief Agbamu Lane DDPA Extension, Warri (Effurun), Delta State throughout the week beginning from 11th January, 2016.”

“The gate of the premises known as No. 1, Chief Agbamu Close, DDPA Extension, Warri (Effurun), Delta is black in colour and is not perforated nor does it have a see-through, reddish/brown gate with iron bars shown in Exhibit GE4,” Udo claimed.

Tompolo is therefore seeking, among others, “an order setting aside the warrant for the arrest of the 1st accused person/applicant (Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo) issued by this court on 14th January, 2016 pursuant to the purported service of the summons and the criminal charge instituted in this case on the applicant.”

Adegboruwa, in a statement, however, said his client was prepared to willingly come to court to answer any charges preferred against him.

He also said the Inspector- General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff and the Navy had been notified of Tompolo’s application, “so that overzealous persons do not take advantage of the court process to attempt to trample on his legal rights.”

In the charge against Tompolo and others, the EFCC accused them of conspiring to divert various sums running into over N34bn, allegedly stolen from the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to their personal use.

Charged alongside Tompolo is the immediate past Director-General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi; one Kime Engozu, Rex Elem, Gregory Mbonu and Capt. Warredi Enisuoh.

They were charged along with four companies – Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, Odimiri Electrical Limited, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited and Destre Consult Limited.

The EFCC said they acted contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and were liable to punishment under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

In the meantime, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief who blew the whistle on the alleged rigging of the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State yesterday alleged that his life was under threat.

Dr. Temitope Aluko, who on Sunday spoke of how former President Goodluck Jonathan allegedly gave Governor Ayo Fayose $37 million to prosecute the election and directed that the military should facilitate victory for the then PDP candidate, said he escaped from the hands of “fake security men” on Sunday night.

He also indicted many politicians and military chiefs.

But Fayose described him as desperate and denied the allegations.

Also yesterday, All Progressives Congress (APC) urged the government to prosecute all the people indicted by the ex-PDP chief.

A human rights lawyer, Morakinyo Ogele also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the $37m allegedly given to Fayose by Jonathan.

Aluko said yesterday: “After the live television interview on Politics Today on Channels Television on Sunday at about 9.30 pm, my attention was drawn to the presence of some operatives supposedly from the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), seeking to effect my arrest.

“However, having passed though the same route before, my instinct immediately told me that something was amiss. I made some calls and found out that there was no such order to effect my arrest by the office of the IGP or from any other security agency for that matter.

“I was later made to understand that the ‘fake’ security agents were actually miscreants posing as security men and acting on the orders of Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose to get rid of me at all cost.

“I must let Nigerians know that I have made a resolution to let the whole world know what transpired during the Ekiti 2014 governorship poll.”

The Ekiti APC, in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) to prosecute all those named in the Ekiti 2014 election rigging drama.

The party said it had twice petitioned the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on the matter, stressing that the revelations by PDP secretary had made it imperative that the nation’s chief law officer must act now.

Olatunbosun said the election fraud crisis had refused to go despite all shenanigans by Fayose, who he said was the biggest beneficiary of the election fraud that created a blight on Nigeria’s international image.

The APC spokesman said even though there was nothing new in the PDP Secretary’s revelations, he noted, however, that it had become pertinent to prosecute the suspects as the revelations were again emanating from the insider who participated fully in what is now known as Ekitigate.

“By Aluko’s revelations, we are justified in our claim that our candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi, never lost that election, but was criminally toppled by a coup d’etat orchestrated by Fayose in cahoots with President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration that illegally deployed money and the military to ensure victory for Fayose.

“It is interesting that more names are coming up in the biggest election scam ever witnessed in Nigeria with the alleged participation of Ifeanyi Ubah of the infamous Transformation Agenda for Nigeria (TAN), a shadowy campaign group for former President Jonathan in the fraud. No wonder Ubah was compensated with a honorary Fellow by Fayose at the Ekiti State College of Education for a job well done.”

Ubah denied ever giving Fayose money for the election.

Olatunbosun went on: “It is in the light of this that we are calling on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute all the suspects in the election fraud for treasonable felony to preserve the integrity of the Nigerian Constitution.”

The APC said President Muhammadu Buhari should use Ekiti election “fraud” case to convince Nigerians that official impunity and fraud would not have a place in Nigeria under his watch.

“We have seen the Army already tackling the military aspect of the Army Probe Panel report. We expect the police and attorney general of the federation to also toe the line in coming out with the civilian component of the probe report and act accordingly.

“The military men were mere agents used by Fayose to rig the election. Some of the officers implicated in Fayose’s crime had been recommended for various sanctions, including losing their jobs while others are to face prosecution by the EFCC and court martial, according to the military rules and administrative procedure.

“These military men should not be made to suffer alone for the crime committed in conjunction with Fayose and his fellow conspirators in PDP who are still working free as if there is no law in this country,” he said.

Olatunbosun berated Fayose’s media aides, Lanre Ogunsuyi and Lere Olayinka, for claiming that Captain Koli’s audio tape was a forgery, saying, however, that it was gratifying that Fayose, who also first denied his voice on the tape, later admitted that it was his.

“If the Ekiti audio tape was a forgery as they alleged, were the appearances of Koli and Tope Aluko also forgeries?” he said.

Noting that Fayose had always mouthed his readiness to wave his immunity to face prosecution over alleged crimes, he said now was the time to wave that immunity to face prosecution on the electoral fraud.

He insisted that APC would not accept anything short of comprehensive review of the Ekiti State election saga, even as he urged Nigerians to prevail on the Minister of Justice to compel Fayose to explain to the world what he meant by saying that he collected INEC soft copies and got them printed as captured in Captain Sagir Koli’s tape detailing all activities connected with Ekiti poll rigging.

“Besides Fayose talking on the tape about how INEC gave him soft copies that he printed to win the election, the minister of justice must also compel the governor, who spoke on election result collation in the tape, to tell Nigerians which election result he was collating in Efon-Alaye on June 19, 2014, two clear days before the June 21, 2014 governorship election,” Olatunbosun concluded.

Ogele urged Fayose to resign from office within seven days “because the election that brought him to office was highly compromised”.

He vowed to approach the Federal High Court if Fayose fails to resign to seek a declaration that the election is null and void by reason of the latest facts and figures released by Fayose’s former right-hand man.

The activist-lawyer also challenged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to explain its own side of the story following the alleged sharing of N1 billion by its officials to compromise the Ekiti poll.

“They have the statutory power to probe this fraud; they should look into it to ascertain whether it is part of the arms money diverted and shared among many people. If truly the Federal Government is determined to fight corruption, EFCC, as a matter of urgency, should comb Ekiti for this gigantic fraud.”

Pinch with additional report from Nation

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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