The Ikeja Special Offences Court, presided over by Justice Mojisola Dada, has declared Innocent Chukwuma, the chief executive officer of Innoson Nigeria Limited, wanted for failing to appear before the court for arraignment.
The judge made the declaration Thursdsy after turning down a request to hear a pending application brought by counsel to the Innoson boss, George Uwechue, challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
The Innoson boss had previously failed to make an appearance in court for his arraignment on January 17, February 9, March 14 and April 25. A bench warrant had been issued against him the third time he refused to appear before the court for arraignment, a decision his counsel said had been put before the Court of Appeal.
It was the fifth time Chukwuma failed to attend the court’s proceedings, according to Anselm Ozioko, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria representing the second defendant (Innoson) is still insisting on taking his application without ensuring the defendant is physically present in court,” Ozioko said.
“The question is where is the second defendant? Is he too big for the court? Is he too big for the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Is he too big because he has money?
“What my learned friend, the defence counsel, are doing is contemptuous. We shall be applying for an order to declare the second defendant wanted.”
Responding to Ozioko’s request, the judge said, “The second defendant is hereby declared wanted and the case adjourned until June 22 for possible arraignment.”
Earlier, Uwechue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had requested that the court hear his application despite the judge’s declaration that no application would be heard until Innoson is physically present in court.
“At the last hearing, the court maintained its position that it will not take its pending application unless the first defendant be arraigned,” Uwechue said.
“We were about to cite our position regarding the court’s declaration but we were interrupted by the prosecuting counsel and that interruption led to today’s proceedings.
“Whatever we did that day, we sincerely apologise, we urge this court to allow us to continue our presentation.”
J. N Mbadugha, representing Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd, in his submission told the court that he had an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court..
Mbadugha also informed the court that he had made an appeal at the Court of Appeal over the case.
The judge, however, maintained her position that the applications of the defence would not be heard until Innoson is physically present in court.
Chukwuma and his company, Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd., are 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 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 Ltd, Apapa, Lagos.
They 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.