Lagos – Justice Olusola Williams of a Lagos Special Offences Court, Ikeja, on Wednesday asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to produce Innocent Chukwuma, the chairman of Innosson Vehicles Manufacturing (IVM) Company, for prosecution.
Williams made this pronouncement due to the absence of Chukwuma, who was to be arraigned for the forgery charge preferred against him by the EFCC.
The judge said: “I believe it is the job of the prosecution to bring the defendant to court because they are the executives.
“The judge is just to make an order that he should appear in court, but we cannot enforce the order; the responsibility still lies on the EFCC to make sure he is in court.”
Innoson’s non-appearance in court on Wednesday made it the sixth time he was absent in court after he had refused to appear before Justice Mojisola Dada of a Special Offence Court, Ikeja.
He had also been declared wanted by the court by Justice Dada on EFCC’s request.
Justice Dada was however withdrawn from the case on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) responding to the February 12 petition of the automobile boss.
The matter was re-assigned to Justice Williams.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Chukwuma was also absent in court when the matter was called.
Anselm Ozioko, counsel to the prosecution, informed the court that the defendant and his counsel were absent in court.
“My lord, it appears that the second defendant and my learned colleagues from the other side are not in court.
“He has refused to come for his arraignment for the sixth time, even when the matter was before your learned brother, Justice Dada, despite all efforts to bring him here.
“He has also filed seven different applications in-between the period he was supposed to be arraigned,” he said.
Ozioko said the application he submitted before the court earlier included: an application challenging the jurisdiction of court and an application to disqualify himself from the charge before the court.
Other applications include an order of stay of execution on bench warrant issued by the court and a stay of execution of warrant of arrest among others.
The prosecution also informed the court that the Innoson boss had refused to honour the court order by his continuous absence in court after he was granted an administrative bail by the EFCC. “My lord, in view of the absence of the defendant, we shall be asking for an adjournment date.”
Justice Williams, however, told the EFCC counsel to do all he could do to bring the defendant to court.
She further said that one of the court’s registrars informed her that someone came to file a motion on behalf of the defendant and the registrar made an attempt to serve him the hearing notice but the person refused to collect it.
“It is the prosecution’s duty to make sure the defendant is in court to answer his case. I can’t be issuing an order to a defendant that seems not to be existing.
“I will give you a date and anytime you are able to arrest the defendant, just inform the court registrars and bring him to court for arraignment.”
The judge thereafter adjourned the matter till October 10, 2018.
Chukwuma and his company, IVM, were to be arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretence, obtaining property by false pretence, stealing and forgery in a transaction with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
According to the charge sheet, the defendants committed the offences between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants, with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain by false pretence containers of motorcycle spare parts and raw materials, property of 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.
The prosecution claimed 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 in order that the forged documents be used or acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere.
The alleged offences contravened 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.