Judge Refuses to Consider Innoson’s Application Challenging Jurisdiction

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Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja has refused to consider an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to arraign the Chairman of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM), Innocent Chukwuma, at the court.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, Justice Dada maintained that she would not entertain any application except Chukwuma is in the dock.

This was contained in a statement signed by IVM Spokesman, Cornell Osigwe and made available to journalists on Enugu.
The matter was subsequently adjourned till May 24, 2018 for possible arraignment of the embattled IVM owner.

At the last court sitting on March 14, 2018, the Innoson owner through his legal counsel led by Chief George Uwechue (SAN) challenged the jurisdiction of the Lagos State High Court to hear the suit on the forgery charge against him filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through a motion, stating that the charge is an abuse of process because a similar charge on the same subject matter is pending at the Federal High Court Lagos division between the same parties in charge no FHC/l/565c/2015.

Justice Dada had in the last hearing said she would no longer entertain further proceedings in the suit involving Innoson until she knows the outcome of the petition against her before the National Judicial Council (NJC).

It will be recalled that Innoson had on Febraury 12, 2018, petitioned the NJC to investigate the circumstance leading to Justice Dada of Lagos State High Court issuing a bench warrant against him and ordering his arrest.

Making his submission before the judge on Wednesday, the lead prosecuting counsel to EFCC, ABC Ozioko maintained that despite the petition, the judge can still go on with the prosecution.

Meanwhile Prof J.N. Mbadugha countered the submission of Ozioko stating that they are not aware of any NJC directives that the learned trial judge will continue with the hearing of the case until the petition against it is determined and that Ozioko had neither availed the court nor the defence team with any.

He also submitted that the issue of jurisdiction should be heard first if the court is to go on with the case.
He as well submitted that there is an appeal against the order of bench warrant and a pending motion for stay of its execution and as such the order ought not to be executed.

He also informed the court that the parties had filled and exchanged their brief at the Court of Appeal.
Again, Uwechue, counsel to Chukwuma raised the issue of the court’s lack of jurisdiction to entertain the case and that he was ready to move that application.

Uwechue attempted to address the court on that point but the court interrupted him severally. The incessant interruption of the court and its failure to allow Uwechue address the court led Uwechue to remind the court that he is a life Bencher, a former Chairman of Body of Benchers and has been in practice for over 50 years; that the court ought not to engage and stampede him but rather the court ought to listen to him and where possible record his submission and thereafter give a ruling.

Subsequently, the court allowed him to address it on the point that the presence of Chukwuma is not necessary since he is challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
Uwechue cited the case of Igbeke v. FRN (2015) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1445) 28 at 49 paragraphs D-H.