The EFCC accused the Cross Country boss of stealing N82.8 million.
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo of an Ikeja High Court sitting in Lagos, Tuesday, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Bube Okorodudu, the Chairman of Cross Country Nigeria Limited.
In his ruling, Mr. Lawal-Akapo noted that Mr. Okorodudu had deliberately stayed away from the court where he was billed to be arraigned on the day.
Mr. Okorodudu, Cross Country Limited, and Car Link Limited are facing a nine-count charge of conspiracy, stealing, and forgery.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, accused the defendants of stealing N82.8 million through the fraudulent sale of 17 units of Volkswagen transporter buses belonging to AG Moeller Ltd and Mr. Adeloye Olukemi.
Last March, the EFCC filed a bench warrant for the arrest of Mr. Okorodudu who it said was “still at large.”
But the judge had turned down the request, noting that the presence of an accused at a hearing of a preliminary objection suit was not compulsory.
In May, the judge had dismissed the defendant’s application to quash the charges against him, paving the way for his arraignment.
When it was brought to the judge’s attention that Mr. Okorodudu was not present in court, Robert Clark, his lawyer, assumed responsibility for his absence.
Mr. Clark told the court that he personally directed his client to stay away from the court while awaiting decision of the trial judge, notwithstanding the subsisting decision of the court on May 26 to adjourn the matter for arraignment.
He anchored his argument on an appeal filed before the Court of Appeal against the decision of the lower court.
“Based on my experience at the bar and the rulings of superior courts and other plethora authorities, I instructed my client not to come while awaiting the decision of your lordship. I take full responsibility for this action,” said Mr. Clarke, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“He is not at large. I am aware of his presence and I advised him not to come, and that was why he is not in court now. I know his whereabouts,” Mr. Clarke added.
In his argument, Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC, reminded the court that the day was billed for the arraignment of Mr. Okorodudu.
“By my own understanding of law, the application brought today by the learned silk was an attempt to stay proceedings in this matter,” said Mr. Oyedepo.
“The granting of the defendants application will be akin to the wilful prayer of the defendant who has maintained that he was not willing to come to your lordship.
“This is a criminal trial and it cannot be conducted in the absence of the defendant. This deliberate absence of the defendant will rob your lordship the jurisdiction which you had assumed on May 26 ruling,” Mr. Oyedepo continued.
“The defendant appeared today before The Commissioner for Oath and sworn on affidavit filed before this court this morning. If the defendant can (be) sworn on oath this morning and he decided not to appear before the court it is a deliberate attempt to make mockery of the valid order of this court.
“Granting the application is against the public policy because it implies that it is only the rights of the defendant that was taken care of by the court and abandoned the rights of other parties,” Mr. Oyedepo added.
After issuing the bench warrant to arrest Mr. Okorodudu, the judge adjourned the trial till 8th July, 2014 for arraignment.