By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

The Chairman/Managing Director of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, (IVM), Chief Innocent Chukwuma, yesterday in Enugu accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of double standards in its involvement in the lingering dispute between his company and Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank).

In a statement signed by the Head Public Affairs, IVM, Mr. Cornel Osigwe, on behalf of Chukwuma which was made available to THISDAY, the automobile manufacturer said EFCC was working round the clock to bring the personality and integrity of IVM owner to disrepute.

Chukwuma who was reacting to a media report in a national daily (not THISDAY) of January 12, 2018, with the caption: ‘Court stays proceedings in fraud case against Innoson others’, expressed shock that an anti-graft agency has reduced itself to a laughing stock.

He stated that the charge which EFCC filed against him at the Lagos State High Court in December 2017 was a volta face and portrays EFCC as an institution which engages in double speaking.

“EFCC had earlier denied that its reason for arresting Innoson was not because GTBank induced it to do so but given the huge public outcry against its action on Innoson, it rushed and filed the charge. This charge shows it acted on behalf of GTBank.

“Again, the EFCC charge is a gross abuse of process. First, an earlier charge which GTBank induced the EFCC to file against Innoson was struck out. Innoson appealed against the order striking the charge out on the ground that it ought to be a dismissal and not striking out. The appeal, with Appeal No: CA/L/1328CM/2017 is, till date, still pending when EFCC filed or re-filed, in December 2017, the same charge that was struck out.

“Secondly, the charge is on the same subject matter and the same party as Charge No: FHC/L/565C/2015 that is pending at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, in Appeal No: CA/E/249C/2016. Both charges are smear campaign by GTB and EFCC to destroy Innoson,” the statement noted.

Explaining further how his business transaction with the bank broke down irretrievably, Chuwkuma alleged that “GTBank took N560million from Innoson’s account with it. Innoson as a result sued GTBank in Suit No: FHC/AWK/CS/139/2012 at the Federal High Court, Awka Division. In that suit, Innoson got judgment on May 16, 2013 in the sum of N4.7billion against GTBank for stealing N560million from its account with it.

“Also, in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/603/2006, Innoson got judgment in the sum of N2.4billion – garnishee order absolute – against GTBank. Both judgments attract 22 per cent interest until satisfied by GTBank. The N2.4billion judgment was subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division in Appeal No: CA/I/258/2011.

“Satisfaction of the judgment debt which, with their respective interests, stood in excess of N11billion, became a serious problem to GTBank. In fact, to this extent GTBank had in an affidavit it filed at the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division in Appeal No: CA/E/288/2013, deposed that if it satisfies the judgment debt it will collapse and be out of business.  “Consequently, in order to force Innoson to negotiate with it or to drop the judgments, GTBank got the Police to file a trumped up charge against Innoson in Charge No: FHC/L/565C/2015 at the Federal High Court, Lagos Division in December 2015.

“However, through an instrument dated  February 17, 2016 the Inspector General of Police (IG), through U.S. Nwodo. withdrew the charge – Charge No: FHC/L/565C/2015. At paragraph two of the instrument, which is enclosed, the IG and Stanley Nwodo stated thus: “I have found it convenient to withdraw the said charge following a new development which borders on further investigation.

“Characteristically, GTBank invited the former DPP of the federation, Mr. Diri, to take over the withdrawn charge and Diri using the name of the Attorney General of the Federation purports to have taken over the charge. The question of whether there is a charge – Charge No: FHC/L/565C/2015 – to be taken over by the DPP of the Federation acting as the Attorney General of the Federation is a subject of Appeal in Appeal No: CA/E/249C/2016 pending at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division and an offshoot of this – a motion – is a subject of appeal in Appeal No: SC 839/2017 at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. With this, proceedings are yet to commence and none of the defendants in the charge is, as a result, required to attend the proceedings.  “That Charge No: FHC/L/565c/2015 is a trumped up charge, is demonstrated by the fact that as at 2013, even as at 2012, Innoson was not involved in any transaction with GTBank – their relationship having broken down irretrievably – except the pending lawsuits in which judgments in the aggregate sum of N11billion inclusive of interests were rendered in favour of Innoson against GTBank. Therefore, to say that Innoson committed the offence of falsification of shipping documents as a collateral to GTBank to obtain a loan of N2.4 billion in October 2013 or in any other month or year is laughable,” the statement noted.