United Bank Africa

INNOSON: Nigeria’s Senate to Probe arrest as EFCC releases mogul

Nigeria’s Senate on Wednesday, stepped into the controversial arrest of industrialist and business mogul, Innocent Chukwuma, Chairman of the indigenous motor vehicle manufacturing company, INNOSON Motors by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).

The upper legislative body asked its Committee on Anti Corruption Chaired by Senator Chukwuka Utazi to investigate the matter.

The Senate action followed the raising of a Point of Order from the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

According to Ekweremadu, Chief Innocent Chukwuma was arrested by officials of EFCC who stormed his home in Enugu about 5am on Tuesday and then took him away without being informed of his offence.

Ekweremadu said the arrest is a flagrant violation of the right and liberty of Chief Chukwuma as a free citizen guaranteed in the Nigerian Constitution.

Chief Innocent Chukwuma was allegedly arrested by EFCC over a transaction between him and a commercial bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).

Ekweremadu who said he spoke with Chief Innocent Chukwuma told the Senate that the business mogul is not indebted to the bank; pointing out that the said debt had since been repaid.

Ekweremadu said in actual fact, the GTB was the entity owing Chief Chukwuma after wrongly deducting up to the sum of N500 million from his account adding that a problem ensued between the industrialist and his banker after he demanded a refund.

He explained that while the GTB was willing to pay back at a 7% interest rate, Chief Chukwuma insisted on collecting the same 22% interest rate the bank had charged him.

The transaction has been a matter for litigation, pending currently at the Apex Court.

Ekweremadu appealed strongly to the Senate to intervene to ensure that Chief Chukwuma is promptly released, wondering why the EFCC or any other security agency should get involved in matters already at the Supreme Court.

The EFCC had on its Twitter handle claimed that it arrested Chief Chukwuma for refusing to honour its invitation.

Contributing, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe faulted the EFCC’s  claim; questioning how a commercial transaction between the man and his bank became the business of the agency.

He condemned the invasion of the home of the industrialist and the allegation that his wife was assaulted by officials of EFCC for daring to ask why they came to arrest her husband.

Abaribe said the excesses of the EFCC should be checked especially under an Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, whose position, the Senate had refused to confirm.

Senator Samuel Anyanwu (IMO East) asked the Senate to move decisively to end Magu’s reign of impunity.

For his part, Senator Barnabas Gemade (Benue Northeast) also condemned the arrest describing it as an example of the abuse of power and privilege by Chief Executives of banks.

Gemade called for the immediate release of Chief  Chukwuma; advising the GTB to follow due process where it feels aggrieved.

Speaking also, the Senate Chief Whip, Sola Adeyeye expressed disappointment at the growing trend in Nigeria, of assaults on the liberty of free citizens which he said is a major threat to the country’s democracy.

In his contribution and before putting the question, Senate President, Bukola Saraki advised the EFCC and other security agencies to operate only within the ambit of the law.

The Committee on Anti-Corruption has 24 hours to investigate and report back to the Senate on the matter.

But before the end of the day, the EFCC said it has released the Anambra State-born industrialist on bail.

The agency claimed that the business man was arrested on Tuesday December 19, 2017 at his Enugu residence, following his refusal to respond to its invitations after initially being granted administrative bail, while his surety could also not be found.

According to the EFCC, the industrialist resisted arrest and stirred controversy by bringing six truck-loads of thugs to block the entrance to his Plot W1, Industrial Layout, Abakaliki Road, Emeni, Enugu, home.

This, it said, was after he initially misled the Police Command by informing them that his home had been invaded by armed robbers and kidnappers despite the fact that operatives of the Commission duly identified themselves to policemen guarding his home.

“His unruly thugs encircled and manhandled operatives of the Commission who had gone to effect the arrest. Consequently, a distress call was sent to the Commission’s Enugu Office for reinforcement.”

“In all of this, the Commission’s operatives acted with decorum and civility. No one was manhandled or assaulted by the EFCC team, and not a single shot was fired, despite the provocation. Chief Chukwuma and his brother, Charles Chukwuma (who is still at large), are being investigated by the Insurance and Capital Market Fraud Section of the Commission’s office in Lagos over matters bordering on N1,478,366,859.66 fraud and forgery.”

The EFCC, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) alleged that the industrialist, among other infractions, used forged documents to secure tax waivers.

Meanwhile, a cross section of Nigerians have condemned the arrest while many reacted either closed their accounts with the GTB or threatened to do so immediately to punish the bank for the unethical behaviour.