Innoson Absent in Court Again As Judge Refuses to Consider Jurisdiction Application

Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja on Wednesday failed again to consider application by businessman Innocent Chukwuma, popularly called Innoson, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to arraign him at the court.

The judge for the fourth time adjourned the case till May 24 for possible arraignment.

At the last court sitting on Wednesday, March 14, Mr. Chukwuma, through his legal team led by George Uwechue, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, challenged the jurisdiction of the Lagos State High Court to hear the suit.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had sued the manufacturer before the court on allegation of forgery.

However, Mr Chukwuma filed a motion stating that the charge is an abuse of process because a similar charge on the same subject matter is pending at the Federal High Court Lagos division between the same parties in charge no FHC/l/565c/2015.

Justice Dada had in the last hearing said she would no longer entertain further proceedings in the suit involving Mr. Chukwuma until she knows the outcome of the petition against her before the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Mr. Chukwuma had in February petitioned the National Judicial Council asking the body to investigate the circumstance leading to Justice Dada issuing a bench warrant against him and ordering his arrest.

Making his submission before the Judge on Wednesday, the lead prosecuting counsel to the EFCC, ABC Ozioko maintained that despite the petition, the Judge can still go on with the prosecution.

However J.N. Mbadugha, a counsel to Mr. Chukwuma, countered the submission of Mr. Ozioko stating that they are not aware of any NJC directives that the learned trial Judge will continue with the hearing of the case until the petition against her is determined.

He also said that Mr Ozioko had neither availed the court nor the defence team with the information.

The lawyer insisted that the issue of jurisdiction should be heard first if the court is to go on with the case.

He submitted that there is an appeal against the order of bench warrant and a pending motion for stay of its execution and as such the order ought not to be executed. He also informed the court that the parties had filled and exchanged their brief at the Court of Appeal.

Again, Mr Uwechue, also raised the issue of the Court’s lack of jurisdiction to entertain the case and that he was ready to move that application.

However, the judge maintained that she would not entertain any application except if Mr Chukwuma is at the dock.

Chief Uwechue attempted to address the Court on that point but the Court interrupted him several times.

Angered by the incessant interruption by the judge which made it impossible for Mr Uwechue to address the court, the lawyer reminded the judge of his position as a Life Bencher, a former Chairman of Body of Benchers and a counsel who has been in practice for over 50 years.

He argued that the Court ought not to engage and stampede him but rather ought to listened to, and where possible record his submission and thereafter give a ruling.

Subsequently, the judge allowed him to address the court on the point that the presence of Mr. Chukwuma is not necessary since he is challenging the Court’s jurisdiction.

However, trouble started when Mr Uwechue attempted to read out a portion of the decision of the Appellate Court from the case he cited. The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Ozioko repeatedly interrupted him and did not let him read out the decision.

Mr. Uwechue, SAN, urged the judge to call Mr. Ozioko to order but the lawyer did not relent.

Mr. Uwechue later said that he had never seen that type of proceedings in his over 50 years of practice and that as a result he would quit legal practice.

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