A former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a chemical company, Eunisell Ltd, Kenneth Amadi, was on Wednesday arraigned by the Federal Government before Justice Mohammed Liman of a Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged N2.9 billion fraud. He was docked alongside a firm, IDID Nigeria Limited.
The defendant’s arraignment on a 5-count charge bordering on the alleged offence was coming more than a year after the charge was filed in 2019. This was due to Amadi’s continuous absence in court to take his plea.
Prior to the defendant’s arraignment, the court had turned down a request by his lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), through a motion, to have the charge quashed for being an abuse of court’s process.
Drawing the court’s attention to the motion, which was filed on February 2, 2021, Etiaba argued that it was brought pursuant to Section 36 (5) of the Constitution as well as Sections 1 (1) and 221 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
He added that the purpose of the motion was for the court to filter the proof of evidence and other documents attached to the case to ensure that the accused person was not punished unjustly.
“The provisions of ACJA are subject to constitutional provisions and anything that will curtail the rights of the defendants must be guard against by the court. The provisions of the Constitution is superior to ACJA’s provisions. This motion is deeply rooted in the Constitution”, the silk further added.
Responding, FG’s lawyer, Aderonke Imana, while expressing her opposition to the motion said the business of the day was the arraignment of the accused person. She argued that the motion can only be looked into by the court after the arraignment.
She said: “We are objecting to the motion. Section 396 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) stated that such a motion can only be taken by the court after arraignment. The charge has been filed since 2019 and the defendant has never shown up in court before today. We urge the court to order the reading of the charge to the defendant”.
In a Bench ruling, Justice Liman held that there’s no way the arraignment of the defendant can infringe on his fundamental rights. He noted that arraignment is only a part of criminal proceedings and not an aspect of trial.
“The process of arraignment does not involve the proof of facts and whatever decision was taken by the defendant will determine the trajectory of facts. The defendant’s lawyer misconstrued the spirit behind Section 36 (5) of the Constitution. I don’t see how the defendant’s arraignment can infringe on his fundamental rights.
“In the circumstance, I hereby ordered the defendant to be arraigned and the motion to quash the charge will be taken at a later date”, Justice Liman held.
The defendant was subsequently arraigned on a 5-count charge of alleged N2.9 billion fraud. He however pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
In the absence of any opposition from the prosecution’s lawyer, Imana, the defendant was admitted to bail by Justice Liman in the sum of N20 million and a surety in the same amount.
According to the judge, the surety must have landed property within the jurisdiction and the location must be verified by the registrar/bailiff of the court.
In granting the bail, Justice Liman ordered the defendant’s lawyer, Etiaba, to sign an undertaken that his client will perfect the bail conditions within 14 days.
At this point, the lawyer while responding to the judge’s directive disclosed that he is no longer interested in pursuing the motion for quashing of the charge. The motion was consequently struck out by Justice Liman.
Further hearing in the matter has been fixed for March 10, 2021, for definite trial of the defendant.
The charges against the defendants include receiving and obtaining by false pretence, with intent to defraud, the sum of N2,900,000,000 belonging to Eunisell Ltd, from A-Z Petroleum Ltd and AMMASCO International Ltd; omitting making full and true entry thereof in the books and accounts; suppression of data in respect of the financial transfer to Eunisell Ltd; and converting same amount without authority to create sufficient deposits to promote the credibility of his own company (IDID Nigeria Limited).
The offences are contrary to section 1(1)(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other fraud related offences Act, CapA6, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.