The chairman and chief exeutive officer (CEO) of Innoson Group, manufacturers of INNOSON brand of vehicles, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, has claimed that the Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) is currently indebted to him to the tune of N21 billion. Chief Chukwuma who spoke to a delegation from LEADERSHIP Group, publishers of LEADERSHIP Newspapers, in his Nnewi country home in Nnewi- North local government area of Anambra State also insisted that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government and President Muhammadu Buhari have no hand in his current travails in the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Contrary to the insinuations in some quarters, the Nnewi-based INNOSON Vehicles Manufacturing Company (IVM) boss rather stated that the presidency was not only happy with him for his contributions towards the improvement of the nation’s economy, but that it had given him all the support he requested from it.
The vehicle manufacturer spoke when the delegation of LEADERSHIP Group, led by the business development manager, Mrs Mariam Ogbe, visited his office to deliver to him a letter conveying to him the decision by the Board of Editors of the newspapers group to honour him as the LEADERSHIP Person of the Year 2017.
Taking the delegation on a lengthy narration of his current travails in the hands of the EFCC, Chief Chukwuma stated that the incident actually dates back to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.
He stated that GTB at the time funded an importation business for him with N1.5billion but that the Nigerian Customs Service later seized the goods and illegally auctioned them, claiming that he did not pay the stipulated import charges.
He said that while he went to court to challenge the action of the Customs authorities, he however started paying GT bank the N1.5billion knowing that the loan was money belonging to members of the public. He explained that he had paid N1.3billion out of the N1.5billion within the stated 24 months, remaining just N200million, excluding the interest, when the Court delivered judgment in his favour and ordered Customs to pay him N2.4billion being the value of his imported goods that was illegally auctioned.
Chukwuma stated that at that time, the Customs had “over N10 billion in GT bank, but that GT bank, rather than agreeing to release the money so that Customs would pay him as ordered by the Court, approached the Nigerian Customs and advised them to appeal the judgment.”
He stated that when the Customs authorities refused to accede, GT bank went and filed an appeal against the judgement but that the Appeal Court rather delivered ruling in his favour and even ordered the bank to pay him the judgment debt.
He stated that instead of paying him, GT bank reported him to the EFCC, adding that it was during the investigation, which involved external auditors employed by him, that GT bank and NDIC, following his arrest by the EFCC, that it was discovered that GT bank had been tampering with his account with the bank and in the process had withdrawn illegally a total sum of N560million.
Chukwuma stated that it was this illegal withdrawal made on his account and the accruing interests as stipulated in the Monetary Policy Guidelines of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Customs judgment debt in his favour that had plunged GT bank into being indebted to him to the tune of N21 billion.
The INNOSON boss said: “I don’t have any problem with (federal) government. Government is supporting me in every aspect; all the support I requested from the government, government has approved them. So, I don’t have any issue with the government. “It is GT bank that stole my money from my account with it, and when I discovered, I took them (GT bank) to court. The court told them to pay me my money. They went to the Appeal Court; the Appeal Court told them to pay me the money. They now went to the Supreme Court, and, up until now the appeal is yet to be decided.
“This incident started during the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government. At that time GT bank funded some goods I imported with the sum of N1.5billion. I contributed 25% of this sum. The Customs later seized the containers and auctioned them unlawfully. “I went to GT bank and told them that they should not worry, that I will pay the money; that I know that it was not their fault; that it is Customs that auctioned my containers. I told them that I know that it was public money that they used in funding the importation for me; that I will pay the money.
“I begged them that the only thing they will do for me is that they should spread the loan for me to pay within 24 months. I told them that my business can pay the money. They agreed and spread the money for me. Now, after two years, I had paid GT bank N1.3billion, remaining N200million. Let me ask you, if someone owes N1.5billion, and he pays N1.3billion, has he not tried?
“I gave GT bank my property ‘which Dangote Group is using’ as security for the loan. The property is worth N3billion, but GT bank said it is N1.4billion. “When I started paying the N1.5billion loan, I focused on paying the principal sum, excluding the accrued interest. My intention was to pay up the principal and then approach the bank to negotiate the amount I will pay on the accrued interest. I did the same with Diamond bank; when I finished paying Diamond bank the principal, I went to them and we discussed the interest because they know that my goods were auctioned, and that the interest is their gain. So, after discussing with them they shared the interest into two and I paid them half. That is how I settled with them.
“So, after I paid GT bank N1.3billion, l told them, now that what is remaining on the principal is N200million, excluding the interest, let me finish paying the principal first. But they refused. I begged them to share the N200million and the interest and let me pay the money in 12 months. They agreed. That time I had already taken the Customs to court for auctioning my containers illegally.
“I had paid GTB for three months when the Court decided my case against the Customs. The Court awarded N2.4billion to me against the Customs for auctioning my containers illegally.“At that time, Customs had over N10billion in GTB, I got a garnishee order absolute ordering GTB to pay the judgment debt to me. But GTB refused to pay me. Instead, they went on to appeal the judgment. Interestingly the appeal court ordered them to pay the judgment debt to me. They still went to appeal at the Supreme Court. The appeal is still pending at the Supreme Court as at today.
“Because GTB failed to pay the judgment debt as ordered by the court, I stopped paying them (GTB) the N200million, and the interest. I told them that it is because I have paid you up to N1.3billion out of the N1.5billion that is why they don’t want to obey the court judgment so that they can pay me. GTB now went on to involve the EFCC. This is the key reason why I’m having an issue with the EFCC now. “It was when they reported me to the EFCC that God now exposed them.
When EFCÇ invited me, I told the EFCC everything. I took all my documents to an external auditor who now found out that GTB had made excess withdrawal of N780million from my account in the bank.
“I now gave a copy of this auditor’s report to the GTB and EFCC. I told them that I am not going to pay any money again until we counter-balance the account so that we know who owes who. GTB now brought in an external auditor and EFCC brought in NDIC. After about two weeks, after thorough examination of the auditors’ reports, GTB auditors admitted that GT bank made some illegal withdrawals of N560 million from my account, instead of the N780 million my own auditor found out. I told GTB to put it in writing, which they did.
“I accepted GTB position in good faith and told them that they will refund me the admitted sum to me with interest. They agreed, but said they will pay only 7 percent. I said no because the interest I’m paying them on the loan was 22%.
“I wrote a letter to the Central Bank, and requested them to furnish me with the CBN monetary policy guidelines. I discovered from the monetary policy guidelines that GTB should refund me the N560 million at 22% interest rate within two weeks they admitted stealing the money, and failure to do so will attract a penalty of 100% refund. GTB refused to refund. I now sued GTB to Court. And the Court ruled that GTB should pay me N4.7billion. The court also said the money shall be paid at 22% interest until the liquidation of the judgment debt.”
“So, as at today that I am talking to you, the money GT bank owes me is about N21billion. I believe that one day the truth will triumph over lies. I believe that they are doing the same thing they did to my account to some other customers, and one day they will find out,” he said.
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