INNOSON Vehicle Manufacturing chairman Innocent Chukwuma faces the prospect of arrest after the federal government asked a Lagos high court to issue a bench warrant against him and some of his employees over their involvement in a N2.6bn shipping fraud matter.
Mr Chukwuma, 58, founded Innoson, Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturing company for which 70% of its car parts are produced locally, with the rest being imported from Japan, China and Germany. Located in Nnewi, his plant is seen as the pride of Nigerian engineering and regarded as the country’s first step towards industrialisation.
However, developing Innoson has not been without its challenges as the company has been involved in spats with numerous local companies and banks during the course of its operations. On Monday this week, Mr Chukwuma faced another serious challenge as the government asked for his arrest in a fraud case before Justice Ayokunle Faji of the federal high court in Lagos.
Mr Chukwuma and several of his staff are being charged with an alleged N2.4bn shipping fraud, with the attorney-general and justice minister Abubakar Malami, has now taken over. Innoson employees named in the charge include Charles Chukwuma, Maximian Chukwura and Anajekwu Sunny, while the company Mitsui Osk Lines is also a defendant.
Prosecutors asked for a bench warrant to be issued against them after they failed to turn up to take their plea in the criminal charge. Prosecuting counsel Julius Ajakaiye moved an application urging the court to order the absent defendants’ arrested, adding that the charge was served on them through a court-ordered February 8, 2016 substituted service.
Consequently, he said the defendants were yet to take their plea and should therefore be compelled to appear. He added that an April 12, 2016 amended charge could not be served on the absent defendants, however.
However, defence counsels Chief George Uwechue and Professor Mbadugha urged the court to dismiss the application. They argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to issue the warrant against the defendants because they were not properly summoned.
According to the counsels, the application offends Order 6 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, adding that there was no proper service on their clients. Justice Faji adjourned the matter until July 3 for ruling.
Despite being a successful industrialist, Mr Chukwuma has attracted a lot of political enemies with his dabbling into politics. For instance, in 2013, he was appointed the deputy chairman of the board of trustees of the National Coalition for the Jonathan/Sambo Presidency, a group setup to promote the election of the former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.