Court strikes out suit against Innoson motors

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…As FG says No agreement on N30,000 minimum wage***

Justice Olusola Williams of an Ikeja High court Wednesday struck out the fraud case instituted by the EFCC against Innoson Motors and Innocent Chukwuma the CEO of Innoson motors due to the inability of the prosecution to produce him in court for arraignment.

In her ruling, Justice Williams said, ” the prosecution is well aware that it is the duty to produce a defendant in court, this court is not inclined to continue to waste the tax of Lagos tax payers. This court cannot continue to waste precious time calling a case that is going nowhere. ” “It is a criminal matter that can be instituted anytime. I advice that the prosecution gets its act together before coming to court. I am inclined to strike out this case and I so do. ”

However, the prosecuting counsel, Zainab Ettu had earlier informed the court that they have been able to effect the arrest of the 2nd defendant in order to physically serve him accusing that he has been hiding from operatives to carry out the arrest on him. “I think at this stage while we still pursue the arrest of the defendant, I think it behooves on the defence counsel being ministers at the temple of justice to carry out their duty to the court to ensure that they produce their client in court because they took brief from him and they can tell when who briefed them can be in court. ”

“They filed multiple applications but they cannot produce their client in court. We ask for an adjournment to produce the 2nd defendant in court, no matter what he cannot be above the law. We already have his warrant of arrest when the case was before Justice Moji Dada. ” In response to the prosecution and at the same time moving his motion, Counsel to the first defendant Joseph Mbaduga said, ” all the defendants in this matter are being charged at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi in charge number FHC/L/565C/2015 in respect of the same subject matter and transactions in this particular charge and it is being prosecuted by the AGF. ” “The charge is still pending and some facts in the case have been forwarded to the Supreme Court, while it is pending, the EFCC commenced this charge and never served any of the parties but we saw a media publication that the EFCC had filed a charge in respect of the matter at a Lagos High court.

“Going by this, we are raising a preliminary objection dated 15th of January and filed on the same date as being an abuse of court processes and that the charge has not been served. And going by the norm as laid by the appellate court that it is the duty of the prosecution to produce the defendant in court and until then the court cannot exercise any jurisdiction over the defendant and the court cannot compel counsels to produce the defendants. ” However, prosecution held that ” for any application to be treated on behalf of a defendant, he should be present in court, they can then decide if they want to raise an objection before he takes his plea or after. ” “A fugitive cannot be asking for reliefs from a court he has not submitted to. He is very much aware of the court proceedings but refuses to submit himself to court and instead engages counsels to represent him. ”

“Although it is not the duty of the defence counsel to produce the defendant in court, it is highly unethical and unprofessional for them not to advise their clients properly to appear in court for justice to be done properly. ” Innocent Chukwuma and his company Innoson were first brought before Justice Mojisola Dada of an Ikeja special offences court January 17 and had not appeared before the court in all the adjourned dates since then until the case was transferred from Justice Mojisola Dada in June after Innoson counsel wrote a petition in February against her asking her to disqualify herself from the case and it was transferred to the then vacation Judge sitting at Ikeja Justice Olushola Williams during the break in July.

Mr Chukwuma and his company, Innoson Motors Nigeria Ltd., were to be arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretences, stealing and forgery in a transaction with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB). According to the charge, the defendants committed the offences between 2009 and July 2011 in Lagos.The EFCC alleged that the defendants with intent to defraud, conspired to obtain by false pretences containers of motorcycle, spare parts and raw materials, property of GTB from Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, Apapa, Lagos. They are said to have fraudulently induced staff of Mitsui OSK and Maersk Line to deliver to them via their clearing agents the goods which were imported from China in the name of GTB by falsely pretending that they were authorized by the bank to clear the goods.

The prosecution claimed that the defendants in order to facilitate the fraud forged a bill of lading numbered 598286020 of Maersk Line Limited and 11007950841 of Mutsui O.S.K Lines by knowingly putting a false GTB stamp and signature of the bank staff. The alleged forgery was in order that the forged documents be used or acted upon as genuine to the prejudice of any person within Lagos or elsewhere. The offences contravened Sections 1(1)(b), 1(3), and 8(a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2016 and Sections 309(9), 388, 465 and 467(1)(j) of the Criminal Code, Laws of Lagos State 2003.

In the meantime, the Federal Government on Wednesday disagreed with the report claiming that N30,000 minimum wage has been agreed upon for the new national minimum wage.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige at the end of Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He was with the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Suleiman Hassan.

According to Ngige, the Federal Government has not shifted ground on its N24,000 proposal.

He said that the issue of National minimum wage is a law that is binding on all.

State governments, the private sector and the organized labour, he said, proposed N20,000, N25,000 and N30,000 as national minimum wage, respectively.

He said the federal government would continue to discuss with the organized labour and all other stakeholders informally to arrive at a figure.

He said “If you can recollect we spoke on the 26 of September and I did inform you that I was going to meet with the organised labour to see what we can do to stop the impending strike which was slates for the 27th.

“We met in my office and we agreed to reconvene the National minimum wage tripartite committee for the 4th and 5th of October, that was the issue in contention at the time and the idea was to enable them get back to their council and call off the strike.

“However, one thing led to the other and the strike took place and they called it off on the 30th.
We reconvened for the minimum wage committee on the 4th and 5th, and we had adequate representation of all the three partners. Tri partite means the three groups that are negotiating; the first group is the organised labour, the second is the organised private sector and the third group is the government, which is called the authentic authority by the ILO.

“So we met and if you could remember the contentious issue as per that meeting was for figures to be fixed and we had all proposed our figures, but throughout the negotiations figures were adjusted; the labour unions adjusted their figures and came down to 30,000 per month, organised private’s sectors also adjusted their figures from 25 which they had earlier proposed to N30,000.

“Federal Government is carrying on its own team, the governors so its a bi-focal arrangement when it comes to the federal government.
Governors had their own figure, which was different from the figure of the federal government; both the federal government figure and that of the state governors were also presented and we discussed because the cardinal principle of wage fixing mechanism under the ILO is the ability to pay because the issue of minimum wage under convention 131, the fixing mechanism takes that into account and also says that there must be a consensual agreement.” he said

Ngige added “So we have a figure of the federal government and the state government have theirs. The state government figure at the last time was N20,000, the Federal government had a figure of N24,000 and that was where we all stood.

“This negotiation took into account this irreducible offers on the different governments but we could not arrive at a consensus. Even though we adjourned our meeting and said we will put up a report that will reflect this position, we are still continuing to discuss informally to see if we can arrive at a common figure.

“National Salaries and Incomes and Wages Commission have also done…for the government and presented to the economic management team, so discussions are still ongoing and that is where we are.

“This information becomes very pertinent because I saw all your papers, the dailies yesterday awash with the news that we have all agreed on N30,000, that is not true, the federal government has not agreed on N30,000.

“The federal government is also carrying the states along with them because a lot of the workers are in the states and its a very sensitive matter, we cannot..because the issue of minimum wage is item 34 and an exclusive legislation by the federal government through the National Assembly to go and fix an amount which the states will find difficult to pay resulting may be in retrenchment of workers in the states.

“This government doesn’t want any retrenchment and Mr President has always reiterated it that no worker should retrenched for as long as this administration is on; no worker will be denied his promotion for as long as this administration is on and recruitment to replace people who have retired or people who are dead should continue to be done so that we face the issue of unemployment a d do what we can through such recruitment. So this is the situation.” he said

Suleiman Hassan said that FEC approved N5.2 billion for roads in Sokoto State

He said “This afternoon, we approved the award of contract for the construction of Kagigi, Jaro, Goraye, and Takwaco road in Sokoto state.

“This is a 28.75 kilometer road joining Sokoto and Zamfara states. It is in a very good agricultural zone. It will able to ferry agricuktural goods and humna traffic between these two states and onto the neighbouring countries of Niger, and Benin Republic.

“These contract is awarded to messrs Sky Technical and Construction company limited at the cost of N5.202 billion.” he added.

Vanguard with additional report from The Nation