The Nigerian government has asked the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman of Innoson Nigeria Limited.

The court order is also seeking the arrest of two of Chukwuma's employees.

They are standing trial in a case bordering on fraud. The case is before Justice Ayokunle Faji.

The Innoson boss and members of his staff are standing trial over allegations of shipping fraud, before the take-over of the case by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

They were accused of conspiracy to falsify shipping clearance documents, already presented as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank PLC to obtain a loan of N2.4billion, an offence contrary to sections 1(2) (c) and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation 2004.

They allegedly committed the offence at Apapa wharf on October 10, 2013.

The bench warrant order sought by the prosecution is based on the refusal of the defendants to be present for the court proceeding. Others named in the charge are Charles Chukwuma, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines and Anajekwu Sunny.

At the sitting on Monday, during which Chukwuma and his staff were absent, Julius Ajakaiye, counsel to the prosecution, urged the court to order their arrest, since they had been served the summons through substitution, according to a court order, on February 8, 2016.

According to Ajakaiye, the third and fourth defendants had been appearing in court, while the first, second and fifth defendants “have refused, failed and neglected to appear in court till date”, while noting that an amended charge dated April 12, 2016, could not be served on them.

Countering the motion, George Uwechue (SAN) and Prof. C. Mbadugha, counsel to the defendants, urged the court to dismiss the application for the issuance of a bench warrant, on the basis that it was outside the court's jurisdiction to do so.

According to the defendants' counsel, the application runs against Order 6 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, while also noting that Chukwuma and his staff were not properly served.

The matter was adjourned till July 3 for ruling.

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