The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday ordered the prison remand of two Chinese nationals and a Nigerian who were accused of importing sub-standard automobile tyres worth about N5bn into the country.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun made the remand order shortly after the accused were arraigned before her on four counts charge. The accused, who were arraigned by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, are Taolung Shen, Xu Jing Yao and Chinedu Madubuike. They were arraigned alongside two companies, Sino Nigeria Limited and Nedeca International Limited. Madubuike, who was listed as the fifth defendant, was arraigned in absentia as his counsel, Mr. Napoleon Nwachukwu, informed the court that the accused was “seriously” sick.
In the four charges, the Federal Government accused the Chinese and their alleged accomplices of conspiring “among yourselves to import tyres, which did not meet the relevant Nigeria industrial standards.” The accused persons were said to have allegedly stuffed various sizes of tyres into one another, an act, the Federal Government said, constituted a danger to the Nigerian populace. The defendants were said to have committed the alleged offence sometime in the month of February 2017.
The offence, the prosecuting counsel for the AGF, Mr. Yusuff Lawan said, is contrary to and punishable under Section 26 (2)(b)(iii) of the Standards Organisation Act No. 14, 2015 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
However, when the charges were read and interpreted to the Chinese citizens by one Fred Guichu Zhong, from the Chinese High Commission in Nigeria, the defendants pleaded not guilty. Their Nigerian co-defendants equally pleaded not guilty.
Following their plea, the prosecutor, Lawan, urged Justice Olatoregun to fix a date for commencement of trial, adding that the prosecution had four witnesses to call to prove the charges. Counsel for the Chinese, Mr. Victor Opara, said he was not opposed to the prayer for a trial date but notified the judge of two separate bail applications for his clients.
Moving the applications, Opara said all that the court would consider in granting bail was the assurance that the defendants would make themselves available for trial. He urged the judge to discountenance the opposition of the Federal Government to his clients’ bail, which, he said, dwelt more on the gravity of the offence. But the prosecutor, Lawan, insisted that the court should refuse the bail applications by the Chinese.
On his own part, counsel for the 4th and 5th defendants, Nwachukwu, also said he had filed bail applications for his clients, adding that he had served same on the prosecutor.
He added that medical reports on the fifth defendants were attached to show that he “is seriously sick currently.” Nwachukwu urged the judge to grant his clients bail based on their presumption of innocence.
But the prosecutor, Lawan, said he needed time to reply to the bail applications by the 4th and 5th defendants. He added that he needed to verify the attached medical reports, which, according to him, were issued by a private hospital. Lawan sought an adjournment to file a counter-affidavit to the 4th and 5th defendants’ bail applications.
After listening to all the counsel, Justice Olatoregun adjourned till Tuesday to enable Lawan to file and serve his counter-affidavits to the bail applications by the 4th and 5th defendants and argue same in court, after which a general ruling would be delivered on the bail applications by all the defendants.
The judge, however, ordered that the defendants should be remanded in the prison custody pending the determination of their bail applications.