The arraignment of Barrister Chike Charles Ononye before Justice Mbonu Nwenyi of the Anambra State High Court, Onitsha by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for offences bordering on stealing and issuance of dud cheque could not go on as planned.
In what appeared like a drama, no fewer than 30 lawyers were in court to demonstrate their solidarity to their colleague and to protest against the arraignment of the accused, claiming that the case should be settled out of court.
Ononye’s ordeal started when he was reported to the EFCC through a petition by one Kenneth Ndejiobi over a case of stealing and issuance of dud cheques.
According to the complainant, Ononye was engaged sometime in 2006 to manage his properties situated at Onitsha, Anambra State.
The accused person allegedly stole the sum of one million, forty one thousand, six hundred naira (N1, 041,600.00), part of the money he collected as rent over the complainant’s property.
The accused person in a bid to defray the said sum, in the first instance, issued a UBA cheque in the sum of four hundred and eight thousand naira (N408,000.00) and another UBA cheque in the sum of six hundred and thirty three thousand, six hundred naira (N633,600.00) both of which were returned unpaid due to insufficient funds.
Consequently, the accused person issued another UBA cheque in the sum of four hundred and eight thousand naira (N408, 000.00) which also suffered the same fate as the ones earlier presented.
When the case was called, counsel to EFCC, Mainforce Adaka Ekwu urged the court to take the plea of the accused person adding that the charge against him is a criminal matter.
However, Barrister A. A. Ononye, who announced his appearance on behalf of other colleagues for the accused person, pleaded with the court for an adjournment to enable both parties to settle out of court. He said, as friends of the court they would do every thing possible to ensure that the matter is resolved amicably between the two parties.
Ekwu objected vehemently to the request for out of court settlement describing it as an attempt to frustrate the trial of the accused person. He said, “Lawyers have no immunity to criminal investigation and prosecution”.
When it appeared to the opposing lawyers that the judge was not persuaded by their pleas, they changed tactics and objected to the arraignment on the ground that the charge brought against the accused person is incompetent and that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain it.
Justice Nwenyi adjourned the matter to November 20, 2014.