By Jerry Uwah
After about 10 years of fruitless trial, a Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of a former governor of Enugu state, Chimaroke Nnamani, over N4.5 billion money laundering.
The former governor’s sureties were also summoned to appear before the court to show cause why they should not be punished for failing to produce the accused person in court.
The court issued the orders following the absence of the accused in court to stand trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Nnamani alongside his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, over N4.5 billion money laundering.
Also charged are six firms namely Rainbownet Nig. Ltd, Hillgate Nig. Ltd, Cosmo FM, Capital City Automobile Nig. Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
The ex-governor and his co-accused were said to have allegedly lodged the laundered sum, in a secret account, with the aim of concealing its source.
When the case was called yesterday, Mr. Kelvin Uzozie announced appearance for the prosecution while Mr. Abubakar Shamsudeen appeared for the accused.
Meanwhile, in his submissions before the court, Shamsudeen urged the court to grant an adjournment until January 2018, to enable counsels contact family members of the accused and get across to the accused.
He stressed that the accused was bed-ridden in America due to a surgery he had undergone, adding that other accused had entered a plea bargain in the matter.
He urged the court to grant a further adjournment.
In reaction, the trial judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor, told the defence counsel that “you seem to be very knowledgeable in the matter; so tell me when was the plea bargain?”
Shamsudeen, in response, said he was not so sure of the date, adding that it was between May and June 2015.
Obiozor said: “This is not a case of more haste and less speed, no, I won’t allow that in my court; this is a 2007 charge and up till now we are still talking of plea.
“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.
“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.”
Nnamani was earlier arraigned before Justice Tijani Abubakar and re-arraigned before Justice Charles Archibong when Tijani Abubakar was elevated to court of appeal and later re-arraigned before Mohammed Yinusa when Justice Archibong retired.