Innoson Group, on Wednesday, said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission lied in the reasons the anti-graft agency gave for the arrest of its chairman, Innocent Chukwuma.
The Innoson boss was arrested at his Enugu residence on Tuesday morning by EFCC operatives.
EFCC had explained that Chukwuma’s arrest followed his “refusal to honour an invitation by the Commission, having earlier jumped an administrative bail granted him in a case being investigated by the Capital Market and Insurance Fraud Unit of the Commission’s Lagos office.”
The anti-graft agency alleged that Chukwuma brought six truck-loads of “thugs,” who reportedly manhandled its operatives when they moved to arrest him.
Reacting to the development, Innoson Group, in a statement entitled ‘Re: EFCC arrests Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson)’, and signed by the Head, Corporate Communications, Cornel Osigwe, said the EFCC “lied” in the reasons it gave for the arrest, as well as in the account of what transpired during the incident.
Innoson group said Chukwuma was “never invited by the EFCC.”
Part of the statement read, “Inasmuch as we would not join words with EFCC, but because their official statement has been widely circulated among many news media, including various online blogs and social media platforms, we would, for record purposes, state the facts of the alleged invitation as well as what happened in his (Dr. Innocent Chukwuma) residence during his arrest yesterday (Tuesday).
“We wish to deny EFFC’s claim categorically that Dr. Innocent Chukwuma (Innoson) was invited by the Commission or was there any time or that he jumped an administrative bail granted by the EFCC.
“Dr. Chukwuma (OFR) is a law-abiding citizen, a public figure and a well known industrialist of international repute. There is no how he would be invited by the EFCC and he would ignore or refuse to honour the invitation.
“Dr. Chukwuma has never had any issues or query from the EFCC recently. The last issue he had with EFCC was an invitation extended to him in 2012 based on a complaint against him by Guaranty Trust Bank, GTB, which he duly honoured.
“Upon the completion of investigation, EFCC requested him through a letter, to pay some money to GTB, saying that the money is what Innoson owes GTB after it (EFCC) deducted excess charge of about N560m which GTB illegally and unlawfully took from their account.
“Innoson rejected the demand, maintaining that it was GTB that was owing it and that GTB is to pay interest on the excess and unlawful charges. This resulted in a stalemate between Innoson and EFCC.
“Consequently, Innoson commenced a lawsuit against GTB at Federal High Court in suit no: FHC/AWK/139/2012 at Federal High Court Awka division and thereat got a judgment in its favour in the sum of N4.7bn against GTB.
“As a consequence of the above, EFCC filed a charge against him at the Lagos High Court. The charge was subsequently struck out after EFCC filled a notice of discountenance.
“However, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Nigeria Ltd. appealed against the order striking out the case on the basis that it ought to be dismissed and not struck out.
“The appeal no: CA/I/1330Cm/2017 till date is still pending at the Court of Appeal Lagos State.
“Since then, EFCC has never invited Dr. Chukwuma again.”
Innoson group said EFCC must provide evidence of Chukwuma’s alleged refusal to honour the said invitation, as well as proof of the alleged assault on the anti-graft agency’s operatives by alleged thugs during Chukwuma’s arrest.
The statement added, “We challenge EFCC to show proof and evidence of EFCC invitation extended to Dr. Chukwuma; the various dates of the invitation and the letter of invitation extended to him.
“We further challenge EFCC to also show proof of how and when Dr. Chukwuma jump an administrative bail granted to him.
“EFCC also claimed that Dr. Chukwuma is being investigated by the Capital Market and Insurance Fraud Unit of the Commission’s Lagos office.
“We also challenge EFCC to show proof of this investigation: On whose petition is this investigation being carried out and proof of any letter on this investigation ever written to Innoson from this unit, stating also the month and year.
“The Commission is being economical with the truth by stating that Dr. Chukwuma “mobilised six truckloads of thugs pretending to be staff of his company to his residence, where they manhandled EFCC operatives.
“The truth at our disposal is that some factory workers, on hearing that their boss was being arrested, mobilised themselves to his residence to protest what they said was an illegal arrest.
“However, the EFCC operatives, together with the police team, fired tear gas and dispersed them. We have pictures to back up our claim.
“At no point did these factory workers manhandle the armed EFCC and Police officials at his residence…”
Innoson Group urged the EFCC to allow the court to decide Chukwuma’s case with GTB, as, according to the company, the matter is already before the Supreme Court.
The statement said, “EFCC, as a law-abiding organisation and a strong advocate of rule of law as constantly shown and practiced by its head, Ibrahim Magu, should allow the court processes to reach its logical conclusion.
“Dr. Chukwuma’s case against GTB is already at the Supreme Court.
“We have absolute faith the Nigerian judiciary. They should be allowed to adjudicate over this matter without undue interference from any quarters.”
Meanwhile, our correspondent learnt that Chukwuma was, on, Wednesday moved to Lagos by the EFCC.
It was gathered that the businessman was moved from the detention facility at the EFCC zonal office in Enugu to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, by a team of heavily armed EFCC operatives, including anti-riot policemen.
Sources at the airport informed our correspondent that Chukwuma was clad in a T-shirt, shorts and slippers when he was flown out in an Arik airline aircraft.