The unavailability of a Chinese interpreter, on Wednesday, stalled the arraignment of two Chinese citizens alleged to have imported sub-industrial standard tires into Nigeria.
In a four-count charge (Suit No.FHC/L/73C/17) filed before the court, it was alleged that Taolung Shen, 36, Xu Jimg Yao, 22, Sino Nigeria Import and Export Limited, Nedeca International Limited and Chinedu Madubuike, sometime in February, conspired together to import tires which were below domestically prescribed standards. This was alleged to have been done by stuffing various sizes of tires into one, an action they knew was dangerous to tire users.
The accused persons and the two companies were also alleged to have failed to provide returns of imported tires as required by law. The alleged offenses are contrary to and punishable under Section 32(1) of the Standards Organization of Nigeria Act.
When the case was mentioned, Mr. Babatunde Alajogun, the prosecutor, applied to the court for the charge to be read to the accused persons, but the defense counsel, Mr. Victor Opara, leading four other counsels, informed the court that the two accused Chinese citizens do not understand English language. Mr. Alajogun explained that he was attempting to secure a Chinese interpreter for the accused through the Chinese Embassy when the case was brought to court.
On the legal representation for Sino Nigeria Import and Export Limited, Mr. Opara told the court that the first accused person, Mr. Taolung Shen, is an employee of the Chinese company, but added that the Managing Director, whom he identified simply as Tony, is based in China.
The presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, said the pleas of the accused persons could not be taken until the services of an interpreter are secured. Mr. Alajogun then urged the court to remand the accused persons in prison custody pending the time the prosecution will secure the services of an interpreter.
However, Justice Olatoregun said: "I am not a prosecutor. Why do you want me to remand them in prison custody when their pleas have not been taken."
The lead defense counsel then requested the court to grant a short adjournment to enable him to secure an interpreter acceptable to both the prosecution and the defense counsels. Mr. Alajogun did not raise any objection.
Consequently, Justice Olatoregun adjourned till 20 March for the arraignment of the accused persons when an interpreter must have been found.