SWITZERLAND, JUNE 25 – The lingering dispute between indigenous vehicle manufacturing outfit, Innoson and Guaranty Trust Bank took a new dimension on Monday after a court in Lagos issued a bench warrant for the CEO of Innoson, Innocent Chukwuma on allegations of forgery, a move that has been described by some as an abuse of process.
The police had charged the Innoson boss and two others with an alleged N2.4 billion shipping fraud.
The case was taken over by the Attorney-General of the Federation on March 18, 2016. The prosecution accused the defendants of conspiring to unlawfully falsify shipping clearance documents. They were accused of “uttering” (presenting) the suspected falsified shipping documents as collateral to Guaranty Trust Bank Plc to allegedly 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.
The lawyer prayed the court to order Chukwuma’s arrest for failing to appear in court to take his plea in the criminal charge.
According to him, the charge was served on the defendants by substituted means on February 8, 2016, following the take-over of the case by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
Innocent Chukwuma has responded to the judgement, stating that it is an abuse of process taken too far, considering that the judgement is rooted in the company’s long-running battle with GTB in which the Supreme court had ordered GTB to pay Innoson N8.7 Billion naira for over-deducting its account.
“The issuance of bench warrant against me by the Federal High Court Ikoyi Lagos, today, June 24th 2019 by Justice Ayokunle Faji is an abuse of process taken too far by the Court and made without jurisdiction,” Innocent Chukwuma said in his response.
“The order itself is a nullity and does not have grounds on law. Firstly, there is no prima facie case against me. The charge was based on suspected or trumped up action of Innoson Nigeria Ltd and Innoson Nigeria Ltd was a party originally to the charge but was discharged by the Court of Appeal. Secondly, there was no notice of trial served on me pursuant to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
“The act provides that before the court should issue a bench warrant, there must be proof of service of the charge and the notice of trial on the person involved. But there is no notice of trial served on me and the question of whether I, Innocent Chukwuma has been served with the charge is still pending at the Supreme Court.
“More importantly, the charge is also an abuse because of earlier similar suit in relation to the charge pending at different Federal High Courts. Thirdly, The said CHARGE NO: FHC/L/565/2015 which is a trumped up was filed by the police in 2015 and was equally withdrawn by the same police through its notice of withdrawal dated 17th February, 2016 duly filed at the Federal High Court Registry Lagos. GTB characteristically got the then Director of Public Prosecution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (names withheld) to claim to have taken over the Charge/case using the name of the Attorney General of the Federation. This is after the Police have withdrawn the case,” Chukwuma said
There are many questions raised in this latest development. Why are we seeing this after the Supreme court had already ruled in favour of Innoson? Is the Supreme Court not supposed to be higher than a High Court, and therefore invalidates a contrary ruling.
Also, if there was truly a lingering case of forgery, shouldn’t it have been part of the case against GTB, for which Innoson secured a judgement of N8.7 Billion?