The Federal High Court in Lagos, on Monday, ordered that two Chinese and a Nigerian, who were accused of importing substandard automobile tyres worth about N5bn into the country, be remanded in prison.
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun made the remand order shortly after the accused persons were arraigned before her on four counts.
The accused persons, 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 person 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 Nigerians.
The defendants were said to have committed the alleged offence sometime in February, 2017.
The offence, the prosecuting counsel for the AGF, Mr. Yusuff Lawan, said, was contrary to and punishable under Section 26 (2)(b)(iii) of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria Act No. 14, 2015 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
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 the 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 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 (today) 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.
She said a general ruling would be delivered on all the bail applications by the five defendants.
The judge, however, ordered that the defendants should be remanded in the prison custody pending the determination of their bail applications.