A Lagos High Court judge has ordered for the arrest of the Chairman of Innosson Motors Nigeria Limited, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, whenever he is seen by law enforcement agents.
The Judge gave the order in the face of provocation by Chukwuma’s lawyer.
Justice Mojisola Dada warned the lead defense counsel Prof J. N. Mbadugba that his attitude to temple of Justice might send him to prison.
Chukwuma and his company, Innoson Motors, are facing criminal trial of forgery instituted before the Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a matter relating to a business transaction with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
In the last adjournment, the defendant failed to appear before the Court, pleading some technicalities over deficiency in the manner of service of court processes on him.
But the visibly angry Judge ordered that the process be served on the Lawyer in the Court.
At today’s proceeding, the defendants were absent again setting the stage for another face off with the Judge.
Chukwuma’s Lawyer, Prof Mbadugba engaged the Court in another face-off rather than giving cogent reasons for his client’s non appearance in Court.
Prof Mbadugba angrily addressed the Court that there are pending applications before the Judge and the Court of Appeal which had to be entertained before further proceedings at the Court.
Prof Mbadugha also reacted angrily when the Judge insisted that he could only address her after his clients are in the dock.
In anger, the defence counsel started arguing on point of law demanding that the Judge should disqualify herself from the trial.
He further charged at the Judge that she was overriding the Supreme Court decision.
The Judge attempted to calm him down, tactfully reminding him to respect and address the Court.
“Do you want to go into contempt custody?” the Judge asked. “You can go to prison from here. You think the court is a lawless place? You are rude.”
Realising the precarious situation he was getting into, Prof Mbadugha quickly retraced his steps.
“I’m sorry my Lord. My Lord should give me a second chance. I want my Lord to temper justice with mercy. I withdraw the statement. I apologise,” he said.
There was a similar occurrence at the last proceeding, when Justice Dada asked the EFCC to pass an advanced copy of the charge against the defendants who failed to show up for arraignment on 17th January this year.
At that time the defendants counsel, Mr. Onwukwe who stood in for Prof Mbadugha objected to being served an advanced copy of the charge as a form of service to the defendants.
While the EFCC counsel, Mr. A.B.C Ozioko was addressing the Court, he asked that a bench warrant be served on the defendants for non-appearance at the Court, faulting their disposition that they appeared before the Senate Committee but failed to come to court to answer charges.
He said, “We were here on the 17th of January, but was represented by a lawyer and you made an order to serve the lawyer. We have another person who is here on behalf of the first and second defendants. They were physically present at the National Assembly; they have respect for the legislative assembly but none for the court.
“He explained further that the defendants have criminal charges against them and they have to come to court, but he expressed surprise that his learned friend was in court full of venom and disrespect for the court.
“The first and second defendants are not here because he has advised them not to be here. He has told those who are not lawyers not to be here. But whatever the case, having been duly served, they have submitted to the Court; their lawyer is here, the other lawyer was here to represent them.”
When Justice Dada, however, inquired about the third defendant form Mr. Ozioko, he said, “We got across to the 3rd defendant. We are prepared to amend the charge. However, we shall be applying for a bench warrant on all the defendants particularly the second defendant.”
Finally, the judge issued a bench warrant and ordered that Mr. Chukwuma should be arrested and kept in custody a day before the next adjournment date on March 14, 2018.