A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed June 27 to await the report of the proceedings from the Supreme Court in the trial of the Chairman of Innoson Nigeria Ltd, Innocent Chukwuma, and five others over the alleged falsification of shipping documents to clear goods valued at N2.4 billion.
The defendants approached the Supreme Court to challenge the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to hear the matter.
The Federal Government had filed four charges of forgery against Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Nig. Ltd, Charles Chukwu, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines ‘C’, and Sunny Anajekwu.
They allegedly conspired and committed the offence on October 10, 2013, at Apapa Wharf, Lagos.
When the case came up on Tuesday, only the fourth defendant, Maximum Chukwura, was present in court.
The counsel representing the third and the sixth defendants, Mr. Macharty Mbadugha, then informed Justice Ayokunle Faji that the position at the Supreme Court remained the same as the pending appeal had not been heard.
He said he had also applied that the case should be given accelerated hearing.
In his reaction, Justice Faji asked if the prosecution, as well as other defence counsel, had been served with the application and Mr Mbadugha replied in the negative.
The court held that it was wrong for the defence counsel not to have served other parties with his application, adding that counsel cannot address the court “ex parte” (without notice to other parties).
On his part, the prosecutor, Mr Julius Ajakaiye, complained to the court that the appeal was entered at the Supreme Court on February 28 and by the court’s rules, the appellant ought to have filed his written brief within 10 weeks.
He said he was at the apex court on May 18 to look out for developments but discovered that nothing had been done on the appeal which the defence had left pending.
The prosecutor lamented that the action of the defence was aimed at stalling the progress of the case, but informed the court that the prosecution has filed an application to dismiss the appeal and that same had been served on the defence.
Meanwhile, counsel to the fourth and fifth defendant, Mr Olusola Abimloye, told the court that he had an application seeking to dispense with the appearance of the fourth defendant who had always been present in court.
But Justice Faji held that he could not take the application since there was already an appeal seeking a stay of proceedings before his court.
In a short ruling, the court held that the manner with which Mr Mbadugha was handling the appeal was not in conformity with the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which supports speedy trial.
The judge also held that criminal matters takes priority, adding that counsel must do all he could to avoid the notion that the court’s process was being abused.
Justice Faji then adjourned the case until June 27 for a report of proceedings at the Supreme Court.
The prosecution alleged that the defendants falsified shipping documents which they deposited with Guaranty Trust Bank as collateral for N2.4 billion, a facility allegedly granted Innoson Nigeria Ltd.
The shipping documents were also alleged to have been falsely presented as genuine and with intent to defraud in order to clear goods worth N2.4 billion.
The offences are said to contravene the provisions of Sections 1(2) (c), and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Laws of the Federation 2004.