A federal high court in Lagos has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Innocent Chukwuma, chief executive officer of Innoson Nigeria Ltd.
Ayokunle Faji, the presiding judge, issued the bench warrant on Monday, citing Chukwuma’s failure to appear before him over an alleged N2.4 billion fraud case.
The News Agency of Nigerian reports that the court also ordered the arrest of two of Chukwuma’s employees.
The Innoson CEO is being prosecuted alongside Charles Chukwuma, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines (MOL), a shipping company and Anajekwu Sunny.
The defendants had been charged to court for their alleged role in conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents.
They were accused of presenting the falsified shipping documents as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to obtain a loan of N2.4 billion.
The federal government claimed that the defendants committed the offence at Apapa Wharf, Lagos, on October 10, 2013.
Abubakar Malami, who was attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice at the time, had taken over the case.
Julius Ajakaiye, the prosecutor, had said the charge was served on the defendants by an order for substituted service on February 8, 2016 following the AGF’s take-over of the case.
Ajakaiye said since then, the third and fourth defendants had been coming to court, while the first, second and fifth defendants had refused, failed and neglected to appear in court till date.
He had argued that the defendants were yet to take their pleas and so, should be compelled to appear.
Ajakaiye had also urged the court to grant his application by ordering their arrest.
The team of defence counsel had on their part, urged the court to dismiss the application as the defendants were not properly arraigned before the court, adding that the court lacked jurisdiction to do same.
After arguments, the court had then adjourned the case for ruling.
Delivering his ruling, Faji first highlighted the various arguments and submissions as canvassed by respective parties.
He held that it is clear that the first, second and fifth defendant have not appeared in the criminal charge and consequently held that the application by the prosecution has merit.
“I hereby order as follows: warrant of arrest is hereby issued against Innocent Chukwuma, Charles Chukwuma and Sunny Anajekwe,” he held.
He then adjourned the case till June 28.
In the charge, the prosecution accused the defendants of conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents.
They were accused of “uttering” (presenting) the alleged falsified shipping documents as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to allegedly obtain a loan of N2.4billion.
The prosecution claimed that the defendants committed the offence at Apapa wharf on October 10, 2013.
The alleged offence is contrary to sections 1(2) (c) and 3(6) of the miscellaneous offences act, cap M17, laws of the federation 2004.