GTB'S DESPERATION TO HUMILIATE INNOSON AT ALL COST By Chief Gabriel Chukwuma



MY STORY:
I have followed with studied silence the avoidable imbroglio between the Chairman of Innoson Group, Chief (Dr) Innocent Chukwuma, OFR and GTBank and considers this period appropriate enough to break my silence.  I am compelled to break my silence at this point due to the increasingly bizarre, laughable but very destructive dimension the matter has assumed in the last couple of months culminating to declaring Innoson wanted by a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja.  I fear for my country.  The reason for our stunted growth is in this matter.  Our industrial and technological underdevelopment lies in this matter.  We are our own enemies as a people.  But God is watching.

IN THE BEGINNING:
In the beginning, Chief (Dr) Innocent Chukwuma, OFR was GTBank’s best customer for 10 years.  The bank made billions of naira profit banking for Innoson!  But sadly, the then Managing Director of the bank died.  A new one came on board, inexperienced and tribalistic.  He caused confusion, causing a reconciliation exercise of Innoson accounts with the bank.  In the process, external auditors were brought in.  The report of their audit showed that GTBank stole over Seven Hundred and Twenty Million Naira through excess charges on Innoson’s accounts.  Intent on cheating, GTB rejected this report, and set up their internal auditors.  The internal auditors said that what was stolen was Five Hundred and Twenty Million Naira (N520 Million).  It was the CBN and EFCC that reconciled the two figures.

Trouble started when Innoson demanded for 22 percent interest rate which is the official bank charges in Nigeria.  Laughably, a GTBank that equally charges 22 percent from customers including Innoson offered to pay only 7 percent.  At 22 percent, the bank leadership felt they will have no balance again from the amount they claim that Innoson owes the bank, or worse still, they will balance Innoson.  But this is nobody’s business, you can’t eat your cake and have it again.  Innoson of course, rejected 7 percent interest while GTB insisted.

Innoson headed to the Federal High Court Awka and won, won also at Federal High Court Ibadan, GTB went on appeal and still lost.  Suddenly, looking like victims of ship wreak in a big sea desperately looking for what to hold on to, GTBank returned to Innoson’s containers that came into the country over six years ago to say that the papers were forged and they quickly find succor in the country’s anti-graft agency, the EFCC.  The same EFCC that never investigated GTBank for Innoson’s stolen Millions.  The same EFCC that earlier investigated the forgery matter and gave Innoson clean bill. What a country?

Now let me ask, which businessman can forge such import documents like Risk Assessment Report (RAR) or Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) for payment of import duties and shipping companies Bill of Laden?  These documents are prepared by the Nigerian Customs and Shipping Companies and same forwarded to banks by the shipper, while the banks release them to their customers. So at what point were the documents forged?   Innoson obtained these documents after GTB paid the duties for Innoson to clear his goods.  In all intents and purposes, this forgery allegation is diversionary.

The same GTB is in custody of Innoson’s property worth over five billion naira as security.  Innoson has court judgement of over 22 billion naira against GTB.  How can a man who has such money go for forgery of a material of less than one billion naira?  In the same vein, GTBank had told a court of competent jurisdiction that their ledger got burnt and swore an affidavit to that effect, at another time, the supposedly burnt ledger resurfaced.

My worry is not particularly about GTBank’s refusal to pay Innoson his over Twenty Two Billion Naira, of which various layers of our Courts has ordered them to pay.  My real worry is roping the young man in a forgery matter, all in a bizarre bid to evade paying him.

INNOSON, AN HONEST MAN:
Nobody is in a better position than me to testify to Innoson’s business honesty.  He is my younger brother; I trained him and brought him up in business.  Innoson abhors dishonesty and cheating.  He cannot forge anything.  For the years he was under me, he kept clean records.  I don’t know where GTB is coming from with their forgery allegation or is it an attempt to give a dog a bad name to hang it?

How many containers have we brought into the country in the last 25 years without controversy?  How can one or two be associated with forgery?  This is a figment of somebody’s jaundiced imagination.

Innoson has acquitted himself creditably in the world of business.  He is a national Ambassador extra-ordinary.  Winner of the Highest Africa’s Businessman’s award in China.  Winner of Sun Newspaper’s Young African Businessman award, a member of the Order of the Federal Republic OFR, Holder of Honourary Doctorate Degrees from some of the best Universities in the country including the prestigious Nigeria Defense Academy, Kaduna.  Winner of Nigeria Centenary Award.  Presently, the Chancellor, Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State.  A Philanthropist of note.  He was a major facilitator of the Two Billion Dollar Chinese Investment in Nigeria.  He has built a reputation that makes him a respected ally of foreign business organizations especially in China.  Why desperate to destroy him?

WHERE ARE THE AUTHORITIES OF THE LAND?
In other lands, Innoson cannot be haunted this way like a common criminal.  Innoson is a National Asset.  He is a rare talent.  While others are doing buying and selling, he brought us Technology and industrialization.  But rather than appreciate his business ingenuity, some people are bent on destroying him and the whole country went to sleep.  Where are the authorities of the land?  Where is Mr. President, the anti-corruption warrior?  Where is the Vice President?  Where is the Senate President?  Where is the Hon Speaker of House of Representatives?  And of course, where is the Number one Law Officer, Hon Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation?  These authorities must intervene now.  Some people are bent on destroying this country by destroying one of our best due to greed for money.

The day the Lagos State High Court was declaring Innoson wanted, was the day BBC London was celebrating him as Africa’s Business Icon.  What message are we sending to the International Business Community?  Where is the enabling environment for foreign investors in the country when the indigenous ones are persecuted, haunted and harassed even ceaselessly?

WHY HE HAS NOT APPEARED IN COURT:
Innoson my brother is a very humble young man.  He does not consider himself above the laws of the land.  I was part of the decision that he should not appear in court at least for now.  We became afraid of his safety considering the level of desperation to have him arraigned even without due process of law.

In the same Lagos State High Court, are lying a number of applications from Innoson’s Legal team especially one challenging the Jurisdictional Competence of the court to entertain the matter.  But instead of considering these applications even the one bothering on abuse of court process, what is more “IMPORTANT” instead is to arraign Innoson and perhaps remand him to complete the humiliation or even attempt something worse than humiliation.

The criticality of jurisdictional competence of a court of law to entertain a particular matter cannot be over emphasized.  Or is the court waiting to remand him first, and then apologize, when it is established that it has no jurisdiction?  Why not follow the due process of law by making first thing first.  In all, Innoson is not afraid of arraignment, but the due process of law must be followed.

MY ADVICE TO GTBANK:
I see inexperience, even tribal sentiment in the whole saga, but very sadly, greed for money on the part of the leadership of GTBank is a major reason for this problem.  But let it be said that arms twisting, intimidation, ill-advised collaboration with authorities to undo Innoson so as to evade paying him can achieve nothing.  Even as the matter is dragging, various banks are still doing business with Innoson, smiling while GTB is busy beating drums of war to silence him.

I have advised earlier that dialogue is the best way to solve a problem and I still stand on that position.  One thing is very clear no amount of intimidation or even harassment can legalize illegality.  GTB should do the needful!
Chief Gabriel Chukwuma, as known as Gabros, is the President of Gabros International Football Club.