For the third time, Innocent Chukwuma, chairman of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, on Wednesday, failed to appear in court for his arraignment before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos.
Justice Dada had, on February 9, 2018, issued a bench warrant against Chukwuma, following his failure to appear in court on January 17 and February 9, 2018 to take his plea over a fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
At the Wednesday proceedings, Justice Dada disclosed that Chukwuma had filed a petition against her at the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Consequently, the judge said that she would not take any further step in the case until she had responded to the “undisclosed grounds” in the petition against her.
“I have no personal interest in this case. In fact, I’ll be relieved if this case is taken from me, as it will be a reduction of my work load.”
“This case is adjourned till Wednesday, April 25, 2018 for arraignment,” she added.
Earlier, when the case was called, George Uwechue, SAN, counsel to Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, told the court that he had filed four applications in the suit.
Uwechue also urged the court to hear the applications before the defendant could be arraigned.
The defence counsel further stated that “We have just been served with the amended charge by the EFCC.
“My Lord, there is a notice of appeal filed against the order of this honourable court. There is also at the Court of Appeal a notice to stay proceedings of this matter. We were not given adequate time to study the charge.
“The charge is an abuse of court processes. There is a charge pending at the Federal High Court filed against the first defendant by the Federal Government.”
However, the prosecuting counsel, A. B. C. Ozioko, asked that the arraignment take place as scheduled, adding that “the defence running to the NJC is immaterial. This case should not be treated as special. It is like any other case.
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“The defence filed five applications not four as alleged by the Senior Advocate.
“On January 15, they filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of this court. On January 18, they asked for a mandatory injunction that the EFCC should not be heard in any of the applications. On February 5, they filed another application that Your Lordship disqualifies herself.
“On February 9, they filed an application requesting for the stay of execution of the order of the bench warrant and on February 12, they asked My Lordship to dismiss the bench warrant.
“Prof. J. N. Mbadugha, the counsel to the second defendant, has abused court processes.”
Ozioko also said that the prosecution had responded to the five applications and was ready to proceed with the case, despite Innoson evading arrest by the EFCC.
“The presence of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria cannot change the fact that the defendants must be physically present in court,” he further told the court.
Chukwuma and his company, Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, are to be arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretence, obtaining property by false pretence, stealing and forgery.