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An Ikeja High Court on Wednesday struck out a fraud charge preferred against the chairman of Innoson Motors Nigeria Limited, Innocent Chukuwuma (aka Innoson) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Olusola Williams struck out the case after EFCC failed to produce Innoson in court to face trial.

The EFCC had sued Innoson and his company before the court in January 2018, on charges bordering on fraud,  conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretences.

However, Innoson did not appear in court to take his plea throughout the pendency of the suit in spite of repeated orders, including a warrant for his arrest.

Ruling on the matter on Wednesday, Justice Williams said that it is the responsibility of the EFCC to produce Innoson but they never did.

“This court is not an investigator or a prosecutor. This court cannot waste precious judicial time prosecuting a matter that is going nowhere.

“This is a criminal matter that can be instituted anytime the prosecution is ready.  The court hereby strikes out the matter,” the Judge held.

Earlier during proceedings,  EFCC counsel,  Ms Zainab Ettu informed the court that Innoson has being hiding from the anti graft agency.

“My Lord,  the defendant has being giving briefs to counsels but has never deemed it fit to appear in court.

“While we continue to pursue the arrest of the defendant,  it behooves on the defendant’s counsels as ministers in the temple of Justice to produce their client.

“If they can collect briefs from him,  then they should know where he is,” Ettu said, adding that the anti graft agency is optimistic about arresting Innoson.

“We already have a warrant for his arrest,  as the court has declared him wanted.  The counsels to the defendant have brought numerous applications,  trying to stall the matter” Ettu added.

Responding,  Innoson’s counsel, Professor J.N Mbaduga told the court that the EFCC filed a similar suit marked FHC/L/565c before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

“While the suit was still pending,  the EFCC went ahead and filed another suit with the same subject matter against the defendants.

“Some of the facts arising from the case have even proceeded before the Supreme Court. We raised a preliminary objection citing abuse of court processes. We also raised objections on the grounds that the defendant has not been served with the charges.

“My Lord until the EFCC can produce the defendant in court,  the court cannot exercise any jurisdiction over the defendant,”  he said.

Justice Mojisola Dada also of Ikeja High Court had, on June 22, excused herself from  the matter  on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Also efforts by the anti-graft agency to arraign Innoson before Justice Dada, on five consecutive occasions, failed despite being declared wanted on May 23 and also issuance of a bench warrant by the court.

Rather than appear in court to take his plea, Innoson forwarded a petition to the NJC against Justice Dada dated February 12, alleging bias.

However,  the NJC, through a letter signed by its Secretary, Mr Ahmed Saleh and dated March 9, absolved Justice Dada of any wrongdoing and advised that the matter be returned to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another judge consequent upon which the matter was reassigned to Justice Williams.

EFCC had alleged that Innoson 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 authorized by the bank to clear the goods.

The offences, according to the EFCC, are in contravention of 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 of Lagos State 2003.


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