AN Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos on Wednesday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) to produce the chairman of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, Innocent Chukuwuma (aka Innoson) for arraignment.
Justice Olusola Williams, who is now presiding over the case after the withdrawal of Justice Mojisola Dada of the same division, also blamed the EFCC for granting leave to Innoson, who was in its custody, while the matter was pending in court.
Nigerian Tribune recalls that Innoson and his company were charged by the EFCC on offences allegedly committed sometimes in 2009 and 2011 bothering on fraud; conspiracy to obtain by false pretence containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials property of GTB from Mitsui OSL Lines Ltd, Apapa, Lagos.
The Judge gave the order when it was observed that neither the Defence Counsel for the defendants were present in court during Wednesday’s proceedings.
It could be recalled that Justice Dada of the same Ikeja Division had, on June 22, withdrew from presiding over the matter on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC).
All efforts by the Antigraft agency to arraign Innoson before Justice Dada, on five consecutive occasions, failed despite being declared wanted on May 23 and also issuance of a bench warrant by the court.
Innoson evaded several attempts of arraignment through his continued absence in court and his petition to the NJC against the judge dated February 12.
Meanwhile, the NJC, through a letter signed by its Secretary, Mr Ahmed Saleh said that the Council had, in its meeting on March 9, absolved Justice Dada of any wrongdoing and that the matter will be returned to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another judge.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, while querying the EFCC lawyer, ABC Ozioku on his plea for a further date for arraignment, the Judge said, “I take a separate view in the light of all these because, how the defendant left your custody is totally your issue to deal with.
“This court cannot adjudicate on a matter when the defendants involved appears to be non-existent or absent.
“For there to be a judgement, there must be a viable case before the court and not just in a form of an open, non-existent entity.
“This court would not just issue orders for media publications because justice is not just for the court. I cannot be making orders that are non-existent.
“The appearance of defendants to stand trial is solely the duty of the prosecution who intends to prosecute. Therefore, however, the defendant left your custody is your issue to resolve,” the judge said.
While advising the EFCC further, the judge said, “I would be sitting as a vacation judge in October, so anytime you are able to arrest the defendant, just give a word to the registrar and we would take it from there,” the Judge ruled.
Responding to the court, Ozioku said that the defendant was released from the EFCC’s custody on administrative bail and since then refused to appear in court.
Ozioku said, “The court has issued a bench warrant on the 2nd defendant, who is the owner of the company, and even declared him wanted but he still refused to appear.
“What he kept doing is to apply for a motion seeking jurisdiction of the court to arraign him.
“He has filed several motions against the EFCC to stall his arraignment which include: a motion to set aside the service of amended charges by the respondent to his Counsel dated April 9, 2018; a motion to discharge and acquit him which challenges the jurisdiction of court dated February 15; a motion for a mandatory injunction dated January 1; a motion of the court disqualifying itself from the case dated February 5; a motion for a stay of execution of bench warrant dated February 9; a motion asking court to dismiss bench warrant dated February 12; and a notice of discontinuance dated March 13.
“The defendant also filed a claim at the Enugu High Court asking for N200 Billion from the EFCC on the grounds that the commission came to his house for serving him with a charge,” Ozioku told the court
Justice Williams thereafter adjourned the matter till October 10 for arraignment.