Court Declares Innoson Group Chairman Wanted for Refusing to Face Trial

  • Declaring me wanted is to embarrass me and kill my business, says Chukwuma

Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu and Akinwale Akintunde in Lagos

A Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja has declared the Chairman of Innoson Group of Companies, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, wanted.

Justice Mojisola Dada issued the warrant thursday, following an oral application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when the defendant for the fifth time failed to be in court for his arraignment over an alleged offence.

The judge had at the last sitting issued a Bench Warrant against the defendant for not appearing in court despite several invitations.

The EFCC is accusing Innoson of obtaining containers of motorcycles spare parts by false pretences between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos, ‘with the intent to defraud.’

According to the commission, the goods, said to be property of GTBank Plc, were allegedly obtained from Mitsui O.S.K Lines Limited in Apapa.

The anti-graft agency claimed that Innocent Chukwuma and Charles Chukwuma, “with the intent to defraud, induced the staff of Mitsui O.S.K and Maersk Line Limited to deliver”, to them through their clearing agents, the motorcycle spareparts, moulds of spareparts and steel structures and raw materials called polyvinlchlorid, imported from China.

When the matter came up yesterday, Justice Dada declined to listen to any of the applications from the defence counsel, insisting that Innoson must appear before her in court.

Addressing the court, EFCC lead counsel, Anselem Ozioko, informed the court that they were not able to execute the court’s Bench Warrant.

Ozioko insisted that it was disrespectful for the defendant to fail to appear in court for the fifth time.

He added that the court and the law should not be disrespected by anybody, no matter how highly placed and standing in the society.

Responding, Innoson’s counsel Chief George Uwechue (SAN), said even when the court does not want to listen to the application of a defendant, it was duty bound to do so when it borders on challenging its jurisdiction to hear the matter under consideration and make a formal ruling on it.
Responding to the order by Justice Dada, Chukwuma said declaring him wanted was not only done in bad faith, but was aimed at embarrassing his personality.
The automobile manufacturer who made his feelings known in a statement issued by the Head, Corporate Communications, Innoson Group, Cornel Osigwe, insisted that he had remained a law-abiding Nigerian citizen and was never afraid of being arraigned.

“I have been briefed by my lawyers that Justice Dada of Lagos State High Court Ikeja granted the oral plea of the counsel to the EFCC to declare me wanted because of my failure to appear before the court today. I have expressly stated before that I am not afraid of arraignment but must be arraigned through due process of the law.

“Declaring me wanted was done in bad faith and is simply to embarrass my personality, defame me and malign my character aimed at distracting me from my daily activities in ensuring that Innoson Vehicles continues to produce durable made in Nigeria vehicles,” he said.