Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, on Friday issued a bench warrant against the founder and Chairman of Innoson Motors Boss, Innocent Chukwuma, for his failure to appear in court, for the second time, to face a criminal charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Chukwuma is facing trial alongside his company and one Charles Chukwuma on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, obtaining property by false pretenses, stealing and forgery.
The defendants allegedly committed the offences between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos.
They were said to have conspired to obtain by false pretenses containers of motorcycle spare parts and raw materials, which were property of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) from Mitsui OSK Lines Limited, Apapa, Lagos.
The defendants also allegedly induced staff of Mitsui OSK and Maersk Line to deliver to them, via their clearing agents, the goods that were imported from China in the name of GTB by falsely pretending that they were authorised by the bank to clear the goods.
The defendants were also said to have 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.
Investigation revealed that the defendants allegedly carried out these criminal acts so that the forged documents could be used or acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere.
During Friday’s sitting, Mbadugha informed the court that he was representing the first and second defendants, being Innoson Motors and Innocent Chukwuma respectively.
However, Justice Dada interjected him and demanded to know why his clients were absent in court.
In response, Mbadugha told the court that he had an application before the court regarding the charge against his clients.
Mbadugha further told the court that “My Lord, there is already an existing charge before a Federal High Court and I urge you to disqualify this charge.
“My Lord is not following the rule of law. Don’t encourage the EFCC to be a lawless entity.”
At that point, Justice Dada immediately cautioned him and charged him with contempt of court.
The judge said: “You are disrespectful to the court and the rule of law; and that is pure contempt of court. I will no longer listen to you.
“What kind of Professor are you? Is this what you teach your students in school? I will report you to the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and charge you with contempt of court.”
Aware that the judge was miffed, Mbadugha then pleaded with the judge to gloss-over his error.
Justice Dada, however, submitted that she would not address any issue until the defendants were present in court.
The prosecuting counsel, A.B.C. Ozioko, reprimanded Mbadugha over the manner in which he addressed the court and said that the defense wanted to demean the integrity of the court.
“The defense is full of misinterpretations, venom and disrespect for the court and it is unfortunate that this is coming from a lawyer who stands out as a Professor,” he said.
Ozioko, who also made it known that the matter was for arraignment, added that the defendants had once again shunned the court “because the defense counsel advised them not to.”
Ozioko also informed the court that the second defendant dragged the EFCC before the National Assembly for public hearing, but was turned down.
“The House said it could not interfere in any matter that has been taken to court,” he added.
Ozioko further submitted that the defendants must be present in court to take their pleas and in the event where the third defendant, Charles Chukwuma, is not available, the charge would be amended to accommodate the first and second defendants.
Ozioko also applied for a bench warrant to be issued against the second defendant because “he is aware of the charge against him, but has deliberately shunned the court again.
Justice Dada granted the prayers of the prosecution and issued a bench warrant against the second defendant.
The judge also ordered Mbadugha to be remanded in prison custody till February 10, 2018.
The case was adjourned to March 14, 2018.