The Innoson & GTB Affair: The Igbo & Orphans of the Corporate World
by Femi Fani-Kayode
Such was his shock and anger at the turn of events that the real estate magnate and owner of the resplendent, opulent and stunningly beautiful ‘Amen Estate’ on the outskirts of Lekki in Lagos, Babatunde O. Gbadamosi, wrote the following:
“I have studied the case. I am going to withdraw ALL my funds from Guaranty Trust Bank tomorrow morning”.
The basis of his angst and consternation was the plight of the proprietor of Innoson Motors at the hands of Guaranty Trust Bank, the EFCC and the Buhari administration.
Babatunde’s disgust and repugnance at the way in which the bank and the EFCC behaved accurately reflects the mood and sentiment of millions of Nigerians on this matter.
Yet in my view the matter goes much further and deeper than just GTB and the EFCC.
They are simply willing puppets, tiny minions and minor players in a much bigger game and a much wider picture.
Permit me to cross the “t”s and dot the “i”s, consider the background and look at the facts.
In the last one year alone no less than three prominent Igbo businessmen have been arrested, humiliated and detained by the Buhari administration.
All three are major employers of labor who fared extremely well under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and whose companies have become household names.
The first is Cletus Ibeto of Ibeto Cement, a humble, charming, hard-working, low-profile and exceptionally profound and insightful man who I met when I was in detention last year.
The second is the ebullient, young and vocal Ifeanyi Uba of Capital Oil and Gas, who later joined politics and who was indeed a member of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign organization in 2015 where we worked closely together.
The third is Innocent Chukwuma, the owner of Innoson Motors whose company is the only one in Nigeria that produces cars, who I am told is an absolute gentleman and whom I have never met.
These three men are amongst the five biggest and most prominent Igbo businessmen in the country today. The remaining two are Arthur Eze of Atlas Oronto Petroleum International and Emeka Offor of Chrome Oil both of whom have done very well but that have also had their own fair share of persecution and travails over the years.
I made a point of doing the research in the cases of Chukwuma, Ibeto and Uba and why they were having issues with the EFCC and the SSS respectively and I came to the conclusion that not only had they done nothing wrong, but they were being targetted simply because they were perceived as being “Jonathan men”, because they were deemed as being sympathetic to the PDP, because they were Igbo and finally simply out of envy from ruthless competitors.
Given that it came as no surprise to me when, just yesterday morning, I was informed that Chukwuma’s home was raided and tear-gassed by the EFCC and he was arrested and detained in what can only be described as brutal and questionable circumstances.
I was reliably informed that officers of the EFCC and the Nigerian Police not only injured many in his home but that they also slapped his wife.
Never mind that he was later reportedly offered bail after what can only be described as a grueling and harrowing period of torment and trauma: the fact is that his home should never have been raided and he should never have been arrested, detained and subjected to this brutal affront and indecorous indignity in the first place.
Such was my concern for him and the way in which the security forces had behaved at his home that I was constrained to post the following on both my twitter handle and Facebook page on that same day. I asked,
“Why should anybody be surprised about the arrest of the owner of Innoson Motors? They did the same to Cletus Ibeto about a year ago. These people come from the “wrong” part of the country and they are providing a service and employment for Nigerians. They must be punished for it!”.
I went further by offering some gentle and wise counsel to an old and dear friend by also posting the following:
“I have known the MD of GTB, Segun Agbaje and his two older brothers, Femi and Jimi, for close to 40 years and I have immense respect and deep affection for them. I urge him not to expose himself to the shark infested waters of politics by allowing himself to be used by these barbarians to destroy Innoson. If he does he will regret it”.
Yet it does not stop there. The matter goes much deeper and further than just the travails of Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors or indeed those of Cletus Ibeto and Ifeanyi Uba.
It goes to the very heart and foundation of the fundamental problem of what Nigeria has been turned into by those who believe that they own her.
It touches on the nationality question, the quest and struggle for equal rights and opportunities for the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria and the unofficial and unannounced policy of the Buhari administration to treat Southerners as slaves and to discredit, crush and malign any Igbo person who aspires to excellence and greatness and who is a source of pride and inspiration to their people.
To those that doubt this grave assertion, I have one question to ask: can they, under ANY circumstances, imagine or envisage Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group or Abdul Samad Rabiu of the BUA Group, both of whom are highly successful, extremely wealthy and very well-known northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani businessmen, being treated in this way by ANY Nigerian government let alone one like Buhari’s that was established by the Fulani and solely for the interests of the Fulani? The answer to the question is a resounding “no”.
Yet for the Southern businessman and particularly for the Igbo one, the rules are very different and the treatment that they get from the government and its security agencies are a world apart.
As a matter of fact, they are unfairly deemed and insidiously labelled as the “fatherless ones” and the “orphans of the corporate world” simply because they are on their own and they have no favor or protection from government.
It is clear that any Igbo man that has the temerity and the fortitude to shine and to rise up by dint of conviction, vision, passion and hard work must be humiliated, demonized and denigrated.
The story and the theme appear to be a never-ending one and it touches on all spheres of human endeavor in Nigeria. The policy, principle and practice are the same: as long as you are Igbo, you are in trouble and in order to survive, you must sing the praises of the Buhari administration, bow and grovel to the Fulani, accept your servitude and slavery with stoic ignominy and “bend the knee”.
In the field of the struggle for self-determination and the quest for the establishment of the independent and sovereign state of Biafra, the powers that be did it to the great Nnamdi Kanu, to his IPOB and to MASSOB.
In the field of business, they have done it to the Chukwumas, the Ubas and the Ibetos of this world.
In the field of partisan politics, they have done it to countless Igbo elders and leaders who have refused to bow to the Fulani hegemony that the Buhari administration represents.
In the field of the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Police Force and the various security and intelligence agencies they have done it as countless Igbo career officers have either been denied promotion and operational command or they have been prematurely retired.
Yet all this pales before the fact that thousands of young Igbo men and women have been secretly slaughtered, have been subjected to mass murder and genocide and have been buried in mass graves by agents of the Buhari government and security forces over the last two years and six months.
I have written about this over and over again simply because I believe that an attack on the Igbo is an attack on the whole of the South and is indeed an attack on humanity and all right-thinking people.
It is also an attack on the Christian faith of which I am a member because virtually every single one of the 50 million Igbos in Nigeria are Christians whilst those that are waging this unofficial and undeclared war against them are predominantly Muslims.
That is why the meeting between the Igbo and the Yoruba leaders slated for January 11th in Enugu, under the auspices of Nzuko Umunna and which will be attended by the Obi of Onitsha, the Ooni of Ife, Afenifere, Ohanaeze and all the key Igbo and Yoruba leaders, intelligentsia and politicians from all sides of the political divide is so crucial.
The Igbo and the Yoruba must set aside our differences, look at these matters, speak the bitter truth, come together and agree on how to move forward and protect our collective interest.
Whichever way it goes and whatever happens the matter shall come to an expected end because the God of Heaven will not sit by idly and allow this injustice and wickedness to go on for much longer.
I say this because the blood of the innocent cries to Him in heaven for vengeance and sooner or later He will hear their cry and both deliverance and judgement shall come.
In the meantime, when I heard about the injustice that Innoson and his family had been subjected to, I wrote the following words which came to my spirit and which burn in my soul right up until this very moment.
It is a heart-felt and powerful lamentation and it reflects the way virtually every right-thinking and sensitive Southerner feels and thinks today about what is happening in Nigeria even though they may be too scared to voice it.
“O Igbo what have you done to the sons of Futa Jalon? Why do the heathens rant and rave? Why do the cow-loving aliens and foreign invaders seek to subjugate you and wipe you off the face of the earth?
In silent whispers, they claim that they have cursed you, that you are not fit to rule or lead and that they hate you with a perfect hatred. Yet in 1966 you saw all this coming.
You warned us about what would happen, and you tried to do something about it. Sadly, we would not listen, and we laughed you to scorn. You saw what we never saw. You knew what we never knew.
You suffered what we never suffered, and you shed the tears that we never shed. 51 years later nothing has changed. They still kill you and rape your women. Only now they have widened the circle and it is no longer just you.
They have enslaved the rest of us as well. They kill us too and rape our women. Those of us from the Southwest, Southsouth and the Middle Belt that joined forces with them to kill you and starve your children to death have now been turned into their slaves and serfs.
They kill us too and rape our women as well. They also take our land, shame our children and hate and denigrate our faith.
Yet we look on sheepishly and helplessly all in the name of keeping the peace and political correctness: we accept our pitiable plight and we suffer in silence.
The Bible asks, “what can flesh do to me?”, yet we ignore this divine injunction and holy scripture and bow our heads in trepidation and shame.
Our men have become women and we mask our accursed fear of death, destruction and incarceration and our inexplicable awe of our collective oppressors with a shameful and cowardly smile.
We readily accept every shame, every insult, every indignity and every act of savagery, brutality, barbarity and callousness that they inflict on us all for the sake of an illusionary, ephemeral, undefined and far-fetched concept known as “one Nigeria” which bears false and delusionary pretentions and claims of nationality and nationhood.
We even thank our collective oppressors and captors and we rejoice with them when they denigrate our faith and when they slaughter our children and our beloved in the fields and in the streets.
O Southern Nigeria: who has bewitched you? Cowardice is thy name.”
May God deliver us!
Facts of the Matter
Innoson group Vs GTBank: 30 Key Points you need to know about their dispute:
1 – At all Material time, Innoson Nigeria Ltd operates a Current Account with GTBank.
2 – Innoson obtained, and had repaid same, a loan of N1.3billion from GTB Which was secured with a legal mortgage of its properties valued at more than N1.4billion.
3 – Innoson discovered that GTBank imposed excess and unlawful charges in its Current account.
4 Innoson Group Complained to GTBank on his discovery of access charges on his account.
5 – Both parties (Innoson and GTBank) agreed to invite an independent auditing firm that will be agreed by both parties.
6- At the end, MULTI-WINGS Consulting Firm of Auditors was invited to properly audit Innoson Nigeria Ltd Current Account No 0043753636 domiciled with Nnewi Branch of GTBank. The audit covers a period from March 2004 to Dec 2011.
7 – After the account was audited, it was discovered that GTBank has been illegally deducting excess bank charges on its overdraft facility to the Innoson to the tune of seven hundred and Eighty-Six Million, Two Hundred and Five Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Five Naira, Ninety-Nine kobo (N786,205,955.99).
8 – GTBank was shocked at the audit report when the report was forwarded to it. They replied in their letter to Innoson on 20th January 2012 that it will investigate the issue raised and will get back to Innoson on the Conclusion of its investigation.
9 – In the month of September 2012, GTBank wrote to Innoson that from their personal audit report, the excess bank charges were Five Hundred and Fifty-Nine Million, three Hundred and Seventy-Two-naira, Nine kobo (N 559.3Million).
10 – Innoson agreed to their version and decided to accept payment from it in the spirit of amicable resolution.
11- Innoson also requested that the said agreed amount of N559.3million be paid with a 22% interest rate because Innoson had been repaying all his loan with GTBank at 22% interest rate.
12 – GTBank refused and said that the best they can repay excess and illegal deduction is at 7% interest rate. This led to another disagreement between Innoson and GTBank.
13 – As a result, in 2012, Innoson sued GTBank at Federal High Court Awka with Suit No: FHC/Awk/Cs/2012.
14 – Federal High Court, Awka delivered Judgement in favour of Innoson in excess of N4.7billion against GTBank.
Delivering Judgement in suit no: FHC /Awk/ CS / 139/2012, the FHC awarded N4.7billion to Innoson Motors against GTBank.
The court also ordered GTBank to pay 22 % (percent) interest on the Judgement debt until all the payment had been made to Innoson.
15 – In 2013, GTBank appealed against the judgement to the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, apposite appeal No: CA/E/288/2013.
16 – The Court of Appeal, Enugu in a Considered ruling ordered GTBank to pay the Judgement debt of N6billion Inclusive of the accrued interest and any interest that would subsequently accrue thereon into an interest yielding account in the Name of the Chief Registrar of the Court.
17 – In its various affidavits, particularly at the Court of Appeal in suit no: CA/E/288/2013, GTBank deposed that if it pays the outstanding Judgement debt of N6billion, much less the N8.5billion, it could go bankrupt and be out of business.
18 – GTBank went to the Supreme Court. The case is still in the Supreme Court, while the Judgement debt is about N8billion now to be paid to Innoson by GTBank.
IBADAN Cases: Innoson/GTBank/Nigerian Custom Service:
19 – Nigerian Customs Service Auctioned Innoson goods.
20 – Innoson challenged the action Nigerian Custom Service for auctioning its goods at Federal High Court, Ibadan .21 – On July 29 ,2011, In a Garnishee Order Absolute, the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan ordered GTBank to Pay Innoson #2,048,737,443,67 (#2billion) from Nigerian Customs account in GTBank.
22 – Rather than Comply with the Garnishee Order Absolute of the Court, GTBank on February 6, 2015 appealed the Judgement, but the Court of Appeal in Appeal no. CA/1/258/2011 affirmed the Judgement of the Federal High Court and ordered GTBank to pay the Judgement debt of #2,048,737,443.67 (#2.048billion) to Innoson.
23 – GTBank, instead, appealed to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal’s decision where GTBank claimed through a motion in suit no: SC /694/2014, that the Court of Appeal Judgement in Ibadan (CA/I/258/2011) was procured by suspicious means.
24 – On May 12, 2017, Supreme Court in its wisdom and rightly, dismissed that unfounded and exasperating claim of GTB against Innoson.
25 – As a result, Innoson commenced a N400 billion suit against GTBank, in the suit No: FCT /HC/CV/2448/2017 at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
26 – Consequently, in order to save itself from paying the outstanding Judgement debts to Innoson, the GTBank filed a petition against Innoson alleging forgery which led to the suit No: FHC /L/565C/2015 by Police.
27 – On February 17, 2016, Police properly and competently withdraw the charges against Innoson, saying they needed to properly investigate the bank’s complaints first and see if they had merits.
28 – On September 1 , 2014 , GTBank secured an ex parte order on Innoson Nigeria Limited, dated September 1, 2014 with suit no FHC/L/CS/1119/2014 , filed before a Federal High Court in Lagos , between GTBank and Innoson Nigeria Limited , issued by Justice Okon Abang , ordering that , pending the hearing and the determination of the substantive suit , all Commercial Banks in Nigeria were restrained from accepting in any manner whatsoever to any mandate or instruction presented to them by Innoson Companies or any of its agents or nominees for withdrawal of any sum of money standing to the credit of any account maintained by the company in all the banks.
29 – However, on June 10, 2015, Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos, in a considered ruling set aside the ex-parte order of September 1, 2014, by Justice Okon Abang and the writ of summon as well.
30 – Innoson then slammed a N30 billion suit on Guaranty Trust Bank for what it had suffered in monetary terms and reputational terms during the months when the accounts of its companies in all Nigerian banks were frozen. With Innoson winning both cases at the High Court and both cases at the Appeal Court, and GTB appealing, both cases are awaiting the verdict of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile the fresh N30 billion-naira suit has just gone to the High Court to start its legal journey.
In all, Innoson has won two High Court cases and two Appeal Court cases all against GTBank.
Innoson as at today has Judgement debt over about N10billion based on 22% interest rate against GTBank.
Questions for EFCC:
(i) Now, where is the EFCC coming from in all these?
(ii) Does EFCC actually understand their duties here?
(iii) Is EFCC by their action not sabotaging Nigerian economy?
(iv) If EFCC should to arrest any of the parties, shouldn’t GTBank who dubiously deducted Innoson money from his account and have debt of about N8billion to pay Innoson that they should arrest?
Ikechukwu Emeka Onyia ©2017
For: Team #FreeInnoson