A former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, failed to appear before a federal judge on Thursday despite the court issuing a warrant for his arrest ten days ago.
Instead, Mr. Nnamani through his lawyer, Shamsudeen Abubakar, filed an application urging the court to decline jurisdiction in the trial.
Mr. Nnamani, who was governor for eight years, was first arraigned shortly after the expiration of his tenure in 2007 on 10 counts of money laundering amounting to N5.3 billion.
The former governor and his aide, Sunday Anyaogu, were charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside their companies: Raonbownet (Nig) Ltd; Hillgate (Nig) Ltd; Cosmo FM; Capital City Automobile (Nig) Ltd; Renaissance University Teaching Hospital; and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
But ten years after, and having three judges handling the case at various times, trial is yet to commence; although the companies arraigned alongside the first and second defendants had all pleaded guilty in 2015.
At the last court sitting on December 4, Mr. Abubakar told Chuka Obiozor, the fourth judge to preside over the trial, that his client had undergone a heart surgery in the United States and could not attend the trial.
The judge, furious over the protracted duration of the trial, ignored the information and issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Messrs Nnamani and Anyaogu.
On Thursday, Mr. Anyaogu appeared before the judge but his principal remained elusive.
Mr. Abubakar then informed the court he had filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to try his client.
The defence lawyer told the court that the application was brought pursuant to sections 6(6) and 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
He also pleaded with the court to withdraw the bench warrant issued against Mr. Anyaogu whom he said came to court voluntarily.
He told the court that the second defendant was not aware that the matter would come up at the last adjourned date, and that when he informed him he made himself available before the court.
Responding to Mr. Nnamani’s application, Kelvin Uzozie, counsel to the EFCC, told the court he had just been served the defendants’ application which contained issues of law.
He requested for a short adjournment to enable the EFCC respond to the application.
Ruling on the application, Justice Obiozor, adjourned the matter till January 19, for hearing and determination of Mr. Nnamani’s application, as well take the plea of the accused persons.
The judge, while withdrawing the arrest warrant for Mr. Anyaogu, insisted the one for Mr. Nnamani remained effective.