For the third time, the Chairman of Innoson Group, Innocent Chukwuma, wednesday failed to attend his arraignment at an Ikeja Special Offences Court in Lagos despite an order for his arrest issued by the court.
Justice Mojisola Dada had on February 9, 2018 issued a bench warrant for Innosonâ€™s arrest following his failure to appear in court on January 17 and February 9 to take his plea for fraud charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Justice Dada revealed in court that Innoson had filed a petition against her to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Following the petition, the judge said she would not take further steps in the hearing of the case until she responds to the petition.
â€œI have no personal interest in this case, in fact, Iâ€™ll be relieved if this case is taken of me as it will be a reduction of my work load.
â€œThis case is adjourned till Wednesday, April 25, for arraignment,â€ she said.
Earlier, when the case was called for arraignment, counsel to Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd, Mr. George Uwechue (SAN), told the court that he had filed four applications in the suit.
Uwechue urged the court to first hear his clientâ€™s applications before the automobile boss could be arraigned.
The SAN noted that the EFCC had just served the defence with an amended charge despite a pending appeal in the higher court over the charges.
â€œWe have just been served with the amended charge by the EFCC, My Lord, there is a notice of appeal filed against the order of this court.
â€œThere is also at the Court of Appeal, a notice to stay proceedings on this matter, we were not given adequate time to study the charge.
â€œThe charge is an abuse of court processes, there is a charge pending at the Federal High Court filed against the first defendant by the federal government.
In his response, lead prosecution counsel, A. B. C Ozioko, asked that the arraignment take place as scheduled, noting that the applications filed by the defence were a ploy to delay proceedings.
â€œThe defence running to the NJC is immaterial, this case should not be treated as special, it is like any other case, I hear the first defendant may be in court.
â€œThe defence filed five applications not four as alleged by the senior advocate.
â€œOn January 15, they filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of this court, on Jan.18, they asked for a mandatory injunction that the EFCC not be heard in any of the application.
â€œOn February 5, they filed another application that your lordship disqualifies herself; on February 9, they filed an application requesting for the stay of execution of the order of the bench warrant; and on February 12, they asked My lordship to dismiss the bench warrant.
â€œProf. J. N Mbadugha, the counsel to the 2nd defendant has abused court processes, it is not meant to harrass and intimidate the court,â€ he said.
The EFCC prosecutor noted that the anti-graft agency had responded to the five applications and is ready to proceed with the case despite Innoson evading arrest by the EFCC.
â€œThe presence of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria cannot change the fact that the defendants must be physically present in court, that is the law.
â€œWe made efforts to approach the second defendant by going to Enugu, Nnewi, Abuja and going through the back gate of the Senate and now we are here,â€ he said.
The EFCC on January 17, 2018 had attempted to arraign Chukwuma alongside his company Innoson Motors Limited and Charles Chukwuma but he was absent in court.
They were to be arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, obtaining property by false pretenses, stealing and forgery.
According to the charge sheet, the defendants committed the offences between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain by false pretenses containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials property of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) from Mitsui OSK Lines Limited, Apapa, Lagos.
The defendants are alleged to have fraudulently induced staff of Mitsui OSK and Maersk Line to deliver to them via their clearing agents the goods which were imported from China in the name of GTB by falsely pretending that they were authorised by the bank to clear the goods.
The offences according to the EFCC, are in contravention of Sections 1(1)(b), 1(3), and 8(a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2016 and Sections 309(9), 388, 465 and 467(1)(j) of the Criminal Code of Lagos State 2003.