A Special Offences Court sitting in the Ikeja area of Lagos State has asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to produce the chairman of Innoson Motors Limited, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, for his arraignment.
Justice Olusola Williams made this pronouncement on Wednesday owing to the absence of Mr Chukwuma who was scheduled to be arraigned before her over allegations of forgery brought against him by the EFCC.
“I believe it is the job of the prosecution to bring the defendant to court because they are the Executives. The judge is just to make an order that he should appear in court but we cannot enforce the order; the responsibility still lies on the EFCC to make sure he is in court,” Justice Williams held.
Mr Chukwuma’s non-appearance in court is the sixth time he will be absent in court.
He had initially failed to appear before the former trial judge, Justice Mojisola Dada, who subsequently went on to declare him wanted.
The Innoson boss had then written a petition against Justice Dada, alleging bias and even though the judge was cleared of any wrongdoing by the National Judicial Council, she withdrew from the case.
The matter was then re-assigned to Justice Williams for arraignment.
At the proceedings on Wednesday, Chukwuma was again absent in court when the matter was called.
Counsel to the prosecution, Anselem Ozioko, informed the court that the defendant and his counsel were absent in court.
“He (Chukwuma) has refused to come for his arraignment for the sixth time even when the matter was before your learned brother, Justice Dada, despite all efforts to bring him here. He has also filed seven different applications in-between the period he was supposed to be arraigned,” Ozioko said.
He further told the court that Chukwuma, the second defendant in the case, is the alter-ego of the first defendant which is his company.
The prosecuting counsel said the applications he submitted before the court earlier included an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court and an application to disqualify himself from the charge before the court.
Other applications included an order of stay of execution on the bench warrant issued by the court and a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest among others.
The prosecution also informed the court that the Innoson boss has refused to honour the court order by his continuous absence in court after he was granted an administrative bail by the EFCC.
In view of the absence of the defendant, he asked the court for an adjournment date.
Justice Williams, however, told the EFCC’s counsel to do all he could to bring the defendant to court.
She further said that one of the court’s registrars informed her that someone came to file a motion on behalf of the defendant and the registrar made an attempt to serve him the hearing notice, but the person refused to collect it.
“It is the prosecution’s duty to make sure the defendant is in court to answer his case,” the judge said, adding, “I can’t be issuing an order to a defendant that seems not to be existing.”
“I will give you a date and anytime you are able to arrest the defendant, just inform the court registrars and bring him to court for arraignment,” Justice Williams said.
The judge then adjourned the matter till October 10, 2018, for arraignment.
Chukwuma and his company, Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd., were to be arraigned on four counts of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretences, obtaining property by false pretences, stealing and forgery in a transaction with a bank.
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 pretences containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials, property of the bank from Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, Apapa, Lagos.
They were 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 the bank by falsely pretending that they were authorised by the bank to clear the goods.
The prosecution claimed that the defendants, in order to facilitate the fraud, forged a bill of lading numbered 598286020 of Maersk Line Limited and 11007950841 of Mutsui O.S.K Lines by knowingly putting a false stamp of the bank and signature of its staff.
The alleged forgery was in order that the forged documents be used or acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere.
The offences contravened 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, Laws of Lagos State 2003