BusinessLegal/Judiciary

Bench warrant: Appeal Court to hear Innoson’s application Feb 10

February 10, 2022, has been fixed for hearing of an application instituted by the Chairman, Innoson Group, Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma challenging a warrant of arrest issued against him by the High Court of Lagos State sitting in Ikeja.

The February 10 date was fixed by the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Abubakar Umar.

It would be recalled that the lower court presided over by Justice Mojisola Dada had issued the arrest warrant against Chukwuma following his refusal to appear in court in a suit filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The Innoson boss was charged alongside his company, Innoson Motors Limited, and his brother, Charles Chukwuma.

Specifically, Justice Dada arrived at the decision following the request from the EFCC through its counsel, Anselem Ozioko.

Not satisfied, Chukwuma appealed against the warrant of arrest and urged the court to hold that the lower court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

When the matter came up yesterday, both the appellant and the respondent were not in court neither were they represented by counsel.

This prompted Justice Abubakar Umar to adjourn the hearing of the appeal till February 10.

The court also ordered that a hearing notice be served on the parties.

It would be recalled that the defendants were to be arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretences, obtaining property by false pretences, stealing and forgery.

The anti-graft agency had particularly argued that the Chukwuma brothers committed the offences between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos.

EFCC equally alleged that the defendants, with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain by false pretences, containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials, property of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) from Mitsui OSK Lines Limited, Apapa, Lagos.

However, in his Notice of Appeal, the appellant through his lawyer, Professor Joseph N Mbadugha argued that the administration of justice must safeguard an accused person from oppression or prejudice.

He submitted that the Courts have the fundamental duty to stop and prevent abuse of process by safeguarding the accused from oppression and prejudice.

The appellant stated, “The correct procedure under our law is that any objection as to the want of jurisdiction could be raised at any stage of the trial, but it is better to raise it before plea is taken, that is before issues are joined.

“With the greatest respect, in a democratic setting, as we now are, with no legislative ouster of court’s jurisdiction, all perceived abuses should be tested if confidence is to be preserved for courts as the final arbiter in people’s right.”

He further submitted that the courts have inherent powers to prevent abuse of their process by any of the parties, whether plaintiff or defendant, prosecution or defence, so that as long as a democratic process exists nobody will have his rights curtailed.

“All power to settle issues between parties is vested in courts and the court must be vigilant that genuine issues and controversies are settled so that no accused person will be oppressed either directly or indirectly through the act of prosecution: if not we shall have persecution in place of prosecution”, he argued.

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