Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Grade One Area court, in Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the publication of public summons against Sen. Hope Uzodinma (representing Orlu Zone,Imo West) following the failure of security agents to produce him despite a pending arrest warrant issued against him.
The order was made by Justice Abdulwahab Mohammed who relied on the provisions of sections 41 and 42 of the Administration of Criminal Act (ACJA) 2015.
The order requires that public notices are issued and published either in a newspaper with wide circulation or paste in conspicuous places, indicating that the Senator was being wanted in court to answer to a criminal summons pending against him.
Sections 41 and 42 of the ACJA state as follows:
(41) Where a court has reason to believe, whether after evidence or not, that a suspect, against whom a warrant of arrest has been issued by itself or by any court or Justice of the Peace, has absconded or is concealing himself so that the warrant cannot be executed, the court may publish a public summons in writing requiring that person to appear at a specific place and a specific time not less than 30 publishing the public summons.
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- (1) A public summons shall be published:
(a) in a newspaper that enjoys wide circulation or circulated in any other medium as may be appropriate.
(b) by affixing it to some conspicuous part of the house or premises or to some conspicuous place in the town or village, in which the person ordinarily resides; or
(c) by affixing a copy to some conspicuous part of the High Court or Magistrate’s court building.
(2) A statement in writing from the Judge of the High Court or a Magistrate to the effect that the public summons was duly published on a specified day , shall be conclusive evidence that requirements of this section have been complied with and that the public summons was published on such day.
The court had, on September 18 this year, issued a warrant of arrest against Uzodinma following his failure to attend court to answer to a direct criminal complaint lodged against him by by Chima Akuzie and a firm, Chitex Ventures Ltd.
In the complaint marked: CR/358/2018, with Uzodinma and his companies – Smiec Engineering and Chemical construction company and Niger Global Engineering and Technical company Limited – listed as defendants, the complainants claimed that the Senator issued them a N200 million UBA dud cheque (bounced cheque).
Akuzie said Uzodinma subcontracted to his company a shore-line protection contract in Koko, Delta State, which he (Uzodinma) got form the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and that the cheque was intended to pay for the execution of the project.
The Tuesday’s ruling by Justice Muhammad was on an application by complainants’ lawyer, Oluwatosin Ojaomo, who noted that despite the arrest warrant issued by the court, and served on all security agencies in the country, the 1st defendant (Uzodinma) and his lawyer were absent in court.
He recalled that the court issued an arrest warrant against the 1st defendant on the last date. He said the warrant was served on the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies in the country.
Ojaomo added that the 1st defendant’s absence on Tuesday means that security agencies have been unable to arrest him because he was hiding.
He urged the court to invoke the provisions of sections 41 and 42 of the ACJA to allow the publication of public summons against the 1st defendant so that anybody who comes across him can arrest him and produce him in court.
Ojaomo added: “The implication of this is that the 1st defendant will now be regarded as a wanted person that could be arrested and brought to court by anybody and by any means.
“This is because without his presence in court, the case cannot go on, because our law requires that a defendant must be present for trial to be conducted in a criminal case.”
Ojaomo also placed before the court, a copy of the petition he wrote against Uzodinma and his lawyer, Eze Oguaju, accusing them of attempting to bribe Justice Yusuf Haliluof the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), before who they had sought to stay proceedings in the court before the Area Court.
The petition dated September 25, 2018 is addressed to the Chief Judge of the High Court of the FCT.
Justice Mohammad has adjourned to October 29 for Uzodinma’s production in court.