The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday ordered the arrest of former Enugu State Governor Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani. Justice Chuka Obiozor issued a bench warrant for his arrest after Nnamani failed to turn up for his re-arraignment. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) first arraigned Nnamani 10 years ago on 105 counts of
alleged money laundering and economic crimes involving about N4.5 billion state funds. Nnamani was to be re-arraigned last Thursday, but he was said to be out of the country. A lawyer, who represented him, M. Bamidele, said his law firm got notice of the hearing six days earlier, and that it was too short for Nnamani to return.
Justice Obiozor then adjourned till yesterday for the re-arraignment, but Nnamani still did not attend court. EFCC’s lawyer Kevin Uzozie urged the court to order the former governor’s arrest for failing to turn up. “I humbly apply that a bench warrant to be issued against the defendant and for his sureties to show cause,” he said. But, Nnamani’s lawyer Abubakar Shamsudeen said the former governor was “severely sick” and “bedridden” in a hospital in the United States (U.S.). “I was reliably informed that the defendant had a heart surgery. His absence is not deliberate,” he said.
Besides, Shamudeen said his client was involved in plea bargain talks with the EFCC, which, he said, resulted in some of the companies charged along with him pleading guilty and forfeiting their assets. Ruling, Justice Obiozor noted that there was no evidence showing that Nnamani was sick as claimed. He said the judiciary had been in the news for delayed cases, adding that Nnamani’s case was one of such matters that had dragged on for years. “The last time the defendant came to court was in 2015,” Justice Obiozor noted.
The judge added: “Not only has the defendant failed to show evidence as to why he is absent in court, there is no justification for the absence. “In the absence of any evidence, it is hereby ordered that a bench warrant be issued for the arrest of the defendant and for summons to be issued for the sureties to show cause.” Justice Obiozor is the fourth judge to handle the case since Nnamani was first arraigned in 2007. The case has been handled by Justices Tijani Abubakar, Charles Archibong (retd) and Mohammed Yunusa, who was eventually transferred and subsequently retired. Justice Yunusa had split Nnamani’s trial from those charged along with him.
The former governor was charged along with his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, and six firms – Rainbownet Nig Ltd, Hillgate Nig Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School. EFCC arraigned them on 105 counts of alleged money laundering and economic crimes involving about N4.5 billion state funds. The court had ordered the forfeiture of multi-billion naira assets allegedly belonging to Nnamani. Justice Obiozor adjourned till December 14.