The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday issued a bench warrant against a former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, and his ex-aide, Sunday Anyaogu, with whom he was charged with an alleged fraud of N5.3bn.
Justice Chuka Obiozor issued bench warrant against the ex-governor and Anyaogu for failing to appear in court on Monday for their scheduled re-arraignment.
The judge rejected the explanation by Nnamani’s lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Shamsudeen, from the chambers of Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), that his client was at the moment bedridden in a hospital in the United States, where he was recuperating after a heart surgery.
He declined the lawyer’s request for an adjournment till January next year, expressing displeasure that the case had lasted for 10 years and the judiciary has always been blamed for the delay in such cases.
Justice Obiozor held, “This matter was slated for re-arraignment today, and I have not found any justification for the absence of the accused before this court to take their pleas.
“There must be an end to litigation; the charge before me was filled in 2007 and it is now 10 years.
“In the peculiar circumstances of this case, and particularly in the absence of any convincing explanation on the absence of the defendants before this court today, it is hereby ordered that a bench warrant be issued against the first and second defendants as well as a summons for the sureties to show cause
“Consequently, this case is adjourned until December 14 for further proceedings.”
When the case was called for hearing on Monday, the counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Kelvin Uzozie, had noted that the matter was scheduled for the re-arraignment of Nnamani and Anyaogu but they were absent.
He then applied that the judge should issue a bench warrant against them.
“I humbly apply that bench warrant be issued against the first and second defendants and their sureties,” Uzozie said.
But Shamsudeen urged the judge to decline the application for bench warrant, saying his office had been unable to reach Nnamani in the US or his family since last Thursday that the matter came up afresh in court.
“I was reliably informed that the defendant had a heart surgery last month and we wanted to get a medical report but unfortunately we could not,” Shamsudeen added.
He said the defendants’ absence in court was not deliberate, saying they had regularly attended their trial before Justice Mohammed Yunusa, who was handling the case earlier. Punch