The Special Offences Court, Lagos, on Thursday declared of Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd, wanted over his failure to appear before the court for his arraignment for the fifth time.
Justice Mojisola Dada made this declaration at the request of Anselem Ozioko, the lead prosecuting counsel of the EFCC, after Chukwuma, who is standing trial in a matter between his company and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), failed to appear in court five consecutives.
The anti-graft agency is charging Chukwuma and his company, Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd., on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretences, obtaining property by false pretences, stealing and forgery.
According to the EFCC, Chukwuma had conspired to obtain by false pretences, containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials, a property of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) 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.
It claims 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 GTB stamp and signature of the bank staff. The alleged forgery was done so that the forged documents could be used or acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere.
The offences breached 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.
On March 14, 2018, it was revealed that Innoson had petitioned the National Judicial Council over Justice Mojisola Dada, the judge trying the case.
In his submission, seeking the declaration of Innoson wanted, Ozioko said: “This appears to be the fifth time this matter is coming up before your Lordship for arraignment.
“The learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria representing the second defendant (Innoson) is still insisting on taking his application without ensuring the defendant is physically present in court. The question is, where is the second defendant? Is he too big for the court? Is he too big for the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Is he too big because he has money? Where is he? What my learned friends, the defence counsel, are doing is contemptuous. We shall be applying for an order to declare the second defendant wanted.”
In his submission, Prof. J. N Mbadugha, counsel to Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd, told the court that he had an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court; he informed the court that he had made an appeal at the Court of Appeal over the case.
Granting Ozioko’s request, Justice Dada said: “The second defendant is hereby declared wanted and the case adjourned until June 22 for possible arraignment.”
However, Justice Dada maintained her position that the applications of the defence would not be heard until Innoson is physically present in court.
Responding later through Cornel Osigwe, Head, Corporate Communications, Innoson Group, Chukwuman maintained that he was declared wanted just for him to be embarrassed and defamed.
“Declaring me wanted was done in bad faith and is simply to embarrass my personality, defame me and malign my character aimed to distract me from my daily activities in ensuring that Innoson Vehicles continues to produce durable made in Nigeria vehicles," he said.
He asserted that GTB, which owes him a up to N22billion, instigated his arrest and continuous trial. He further expressed confidence that Justice would be served by a competent court of law.
“This trumped-up charge against me is being instigated by Guaranty Trust Bank, who as at today is indebted to me above N22 Billion Naira, but I know Justice will prevail at the end of the day.”