By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has been urged to issue a bench warrant for Chairman of Innoson Nigeria Limited, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, and two of his employees.
The appeal was made on Monday by federal government, which has dragged the automobile maker before Justice Ayokunle Faji on allegation bordering on fraud.
The entrepreneur was accused of a shipping fraud to the tune of N2.4 billion. Others named in the charge are Charles Chukwuma, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines and Anajekwu Sunny.
Mr Innocent Chukwuma was first arraigned by the Nigeria Police Force, but the Attorney-General of the Federation later took over the case.
At the hearing today, the Prosecuting Counsel, Mr Julius Ajakaiye, appealed to the court to order the arrest of the Innoson Motors Chairman and his staff for failing to turn up to take their plea in the criminal charge.
He said the charge was served on them through a court-ordered February 8, 2016 substituted service following the AGF’s take-over of the case.
Mr Ajakaiye said since then, the third and fourth defendants had been coming to court, while the first, second and fifth defendants “have refused, failed and neglected to appear in court till date”.
Consequently, he said the defendants were yet to take their plea and should therefore be compelled to appear.
He added that an April 12, 2016 amended charge could not be served on the absent defendants.
Mr Ajakaiye urged the court to grant his application by ordering their arrest.
But defence counsel, Mr George Uwechue (SAN) and Prof. C. Mbadugha prayed the court to dismiss the application, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to issue the warrant against the defendants “because they were not properly before the court”.
They said the application offends Order 6 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, adding that there was no proper service on their clients.
The prosecution accused the defendants of conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents.
They were accused of “uttering” (presenting) the allegedly falsified shipping documents as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to allegedly obtain a loan of N2.4billion.
The Federal Government claimed that the defendants committed the offence at Apapa wharf on October 10, 2013.
The alleged offence is contrary to sections 1(2) (c) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation 2004.
Justice Faji adjourned until July 3 for ruling.
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