Innocent Chukwuma, the Chairman of Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd., has again failed to appear in court for his arraignment at an Ikeja Special Offences Court.
Instead, he has petitioned against the judge trying the case.
Justice Mojisola Dada had on Feb. 9 issued a bench warrant for Innoson’s arrest following his failure to appear in court on Jan. 17 and Feb. 9 to take his plea for an alleged fraud.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had taken Innoson to court for alleged conspiracy and fraud.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, Dada said Innoson had filed a petition against her to the National Judicial Commission (NJC).
Dada said she would not take further steps in the hearing of the case until she responded to the undisclosed grounds in the petition against her.
“I have no personal interest in this case, in fact, I will be relieved if this case is taken from me as it will be a reduction of my workload.”
Earlier, Mr George Uwechue (SAN), Counsel to Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd., told the court that he had filed four applications concerning the case.
Uwechue said the applications should be heard by the court first before the automobile boss could be arraigned.
He argued that the EFCC had just served the defence with an amended charge despite a pending appeal in the higher court over the charges.
“We 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 Honourable Court.
“There is also at the Court of Appeal a Notice to Stay Proceedings of this matter, we were not given adequate time to study the charge.
“The 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,” he said.
In his response, Mr A. B. C Ozioko, the lead prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, asked that the arraignment should go as scheduled.
Ozioko submitted that the applications filed by the defence was a ploy to delay proceedings.
He said: “The 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.
“The defence filed five applications not four as alleged by the senior advocate.
“On Jan. 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.
“On Feb. 5, they filed another application that Your Lordship disqualifies herself, on Feb. 9, they filed an application requesting for the stay of execution of the order of the bench warrant.
“And on Feb. 12, they asked My Lordship to dismiss the bench warrant. Prof. J. N Mbadugha, the counsel to the second defendant, has abused court processes, it is not meant to harass and intimidate the court.”
Ozioko noted that EFCC had responded to the five applications and was ready to proceed with the case despite evading of arrest by Innoson by the EFCC.
“The presence of the SAN cannot change the fact that the defendants must be physically present in court, that is the law.
“We 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.”
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 a bank 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.
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 and signature of the bank 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.
The case was adjourned until April 25 for arraignment of Innoson. (NAN