Justice Hadiza Rabiu-Shagari of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of four persons accused of conspiring to defraud a businessman of N313 million.
Chukwuemeka Anyanwụ, 50; Agboola Rasheed Gbade, 67; Nkechi Nwafor, 43; and Larry Balogun, 51, were absent in court although the judge adjourned hearing three days ago to enable them be present for their arraignment.
The suspects were charged alongside Akala Anthony, 49; Umar Ali, 61; Saidi OK, 43; and Bashir Mohammed, 44 and two firms: Grantland Investment Nigeria Limited and Abroad Development Foundation.
The police alleged that all the defendants and others now at large, on June 15 at Lekki, Lagos, conspired among themselves and fraudulently obtained N313. 200 million from Austin Albert, under the pretence of assisting him to buy $1 million.
The offences according to the prosecutors, Maroof Animashaun and Babatunde Oloyade, are contrary to sections 8(b) and punishable under section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006.
The prosecutors had pleaded with the judge for a short adjournment to enable the police present all the defendants before the court for their pleas to be taken together.
But Bala Usman and Akeem Balogun, counsels to the four defendants who were in court objected to the prosecutors’ plea, on the grounds that their clients had been in police custody for over four months without being granted administrative bail, while others were admitted to bail by the police.
The defendants’ lawyers urged the court to take the plea of their clients so that they could move their bail applications.
In response, the prosecutors told the court that the four defendants were remanded on the order of an Abuja court.
After listening to both parties, Justice Rabiu-Shagari had ordered the police to ensure that all the defendants present in court on Thursday for their pleas to be taken.
On Thursday, however, Mr. Animashaun applied to the court for bench warrant against the fifth, sixth, seventh and eight defendants.
According to Mr. Animashaun, all the suspects had been served with the charge and duly informed of their arraignment.
He said the bench warrant application against the four suspects was pursuant to section 113 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. He cited section 114 of the same Act against the sureties.
Justice Rabiu-Shagari, while issuing the bench warrant against the four suspects, ordered the prosecution to separate the charges so the plea of the first to fourth defendants who have been in police custody for over four months could be taken.
The judge ordered the separation of the charge, following an application made by their lawyers, Akeem Balogun and Bala Usman.
Consequently, the judge adjourned the matter till Friday for the arraignment of the first to fourth defendants.