The planned arraignment of the chairman of Innoson Nigeria Ltd, Innocent Chukwuma, before a Lagos judge was stalled on Wednesday after the defence lawyer accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of wrongful service of court summons.
U. Onwukwe, who represented Mr. Chukwuma, said only a successful service of the order would make his clients appear before the court.
“My client has not been served and is therefore not aware of any of the charges before this court. I myself appeared today only because after they filed charges against my client, they took to social media and didn’t forward any official notice to us,” Mr. Onwukwe, who was holding brief for J.N Mbadugha, a professor of Law, said.
Mr. Chukwuma was billed to be arraigned by the EFCC on Wednesday alongside Innoson Nigeria Limited and Charles Chukwuma on a four-count charge of conspiracy and forgery.
The Innoson boss had been engaged in a lengthy legal tussle with Guaranty Trust Bank with the latter accusing the businessman of falsifying shipping documents used in a financial transaction with the bank.
The EFCC arrested Mr. Chukwuma a few days to Christmas, last year, sparking a heated debate on social media.
On Wednesday, the prosecution lawyer, Zainab Etu, told the judge that the defendants were on administrative bail and were expected to present themselves in court for arraignment.
“What my fellow counsel should have done is advise his clients to go to the EFCC office and get a copy of the charge and if they are too afraid they can go in the company of their lawyer; but to avoid appearing in court they decided to file this frivolous application. There is no law that says they should not present themselves in court.”
But Mr. Onwukwe denied shielding his clients from prosecution saying they only requested to be formally served the court papers.
“When the EFCC arrested them they knew where they are but to serve them now they don’t know where they are. They granted the second defendant bail on self-recognition. Charles Chukwuma was not even arrested at all and they expect him to come and ask if a charge is filed?”
When asked by the judge to accept an advance charge on behalf of his clients Mr. Onwukwe said, ” I can’t accept service on behalf of the defendants as I am not one of the defendants.”
The case was adjourned to February 9 for possible arraignment.