Innoson Vs GTBank: No application for issuance of bench warrant against Innocent Chukwuma

Innoson
Dr. Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, Chairman of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing (IVM) Innoson Group.

Our attention has been drawn to media reports that the Nigeria Police had applied for a bench warrant to arrest the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Motors, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, over unfounded allegations of forgery and loan infractions with GTBank.

Consequently, we’ve deemed it proper to respond and put the records straight.

To be clear, a bench warrant can only be applied for and, if the necessary conditions are met, be issued by a court in a pending charge. As it stands, there is no charge pending against Mr. Chukwuma, Innoson Motors, Charles Chukwu, Maximian Chukwura, Mistsui Osk Lines and Anajekwu Sunny. 

The police got involved in the ongoing legal dispute between Innoson Group and GTBank on December 21, 2015, when the Inspector General of Police initiated a lawsuit, charge number: FHC/L/565C/2015, against Mr. Chukwuma and five others based on frivolous complaints by GTBank.

But on February 17, 2016, the police withdrew the charges, saying they needed to properly investigate the bank’s complaints first and see if they had merits. 

Since the police have withdrawn their charges, it is then wrong for the same police to seek arrest warrant against Mr. Chukwuma on the claims that he was evading court proceedings.

A prosecutor at the Office of Attorney-General told the court that the police filed charges against Innoson Group executives in December 2015 but he didn’t inform the court that the same police had withdrawn the matter weeks later.

This was a perhaps an attempt by the Ministry of Justice official to mislead the court because the presiding judge, Ayotunde Faji, had only recently took over the matter.

The failure by the police to carefully investigate complaints before taking Innoson Motors and its executives to court and the involvement of the AGF’s office were amongst the numerous tactics which GTBank had deployed to avoid paying its debt to Innoson Motors.

THE GENESIS OF THE WITHDRAWN ALLEGATIONS; SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT.

At all material time, Innoson Nigeria Ltd. was a customer of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc. Sometime in 2012, Innoson discovered that GTBank had arbitrarily imposed and debited its current account to the tune of N700 million in excessive and unlawful charges. 

Despite a series of complaints and demand for reversal of the illegal charges, a defiant GTBank refused to refund the N700 million to Innoson.

Consequently, Innoson sued GTBank before the Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State.

Delivering judgement in suit number: FHC/AWK/CS/139/2012, the FHC awarded N4.7 billion to Innoson Motors against GTBank. The court also ordered GTBank to pay 22 percent interest on the judgment debt until all the payment had been made to Innoson. 

GTBank challenged the judgement at the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division. The appeal number is: CA/E/288/2013. 

However, on December 9, 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld the judgement of the FHC and ordered GTBank to pay its debt to Innoson into an interest-yielding account operated by the court. By then, the debt had accumulated to over N6 billion.

Similarly, the Federal High Court, Ibadan Division, in a garnishee order absolute made on July 29, 2011, ordered GTBank to pay N2.4 billion to Innoson. The case number is: FHC/L/CS/603/2006.

Also, the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, in its judgment of February 6, 2014 affirmed the decision of the FHC and ordered GTBank to pay N2.4 billion. The appeal number is: CA/I/258/2011.

Based on the numerous judicial pronouncements to the appellate levels, GTBank was indebted to Innoson Motors up to N8.5 billion as at 2013/2014.

In its various affidavits, particularly at the Court of Appeal in suit number: CA/E/288/2013, GTBank deposed that if it pays the outstanding judgment debt of N6 billion, much less the N8.5 billion, it could go bankrupt and be out of business.

Consequently, in order to save itself from paying the outstanding judgment debts to Innoson, the bank filed a petition which led to the suit No: FHC/L/565C/2015 – which was properly and competently withdrawn by the police on February 17, 2016 as stated above.

ON THE ALLEGATION OF FALSIFICATION OF SHIPPING DOCUMENTS TO OBTAIN A N2.4 BILLION LOAN FROM GTBANK.

GTBank did not at any time grant any loan of N2.4 billion to Innoson. And there was no such thing as Innoson obtaining any loan from GTB with shipping documents.

Innoson obtained, and had repaid same, a loan of N1.3 billion from GTB which was secured with a legal mortgage of its properties valued at more than N1.4 billion.

Please note that shipping documents, vide: bills of lading, are issued when goods covered by them are already loaded onto the conveying vessel.

It is highly unlikely that any manufacturer would release its goods for shipment unless it had been paid or its payment had been guaranteed.

In this circumstance, is GTBank saying that Innoson used bills of lading to obtain loan from it but it didn’t investigate the genuineness of the documents before granting the loan? This, surely, should not be an attribute of a seasoned financial institution; except that of an unethical and a careless bank.

Secondly, it also means that for Innoson to have the bills of lading, the goods were already paid for or their payment guaranteed and, as such, the company did not need any loan from GTBank in that regard.

This alone disproves GTBank’s claim that a loan was obtained with dubious shipping documents – bills of lading.

Moreso, GTBank paid the duties for all the goods Innoson imported with the facility it granted to it before Innoson cleared the goods covered using the bills of lading.

As at the time of payment of the duties, GTBank knew or ought to know that the goods covered by the bills of lading and its facility were to be cleared. 

Also, after clearing the goods Innoson returned to GTBank the relevant exchange rate documents for onward transmission to Central Bank of Nigeria, and accordingly GTBank transmitted the paperwork to the CBN.

Innoson didn’t do anything hidden, fraudulent or criminal in all its dealings with GTBank. 

The bank is only looking for means to blackmail, hoodwink and force Innoson to forego its monetary judgment, which now stands at estimated N10 billion. 

GTBank’s desperate schemes in this regard know no limit.  

Recently, in a ploy to get the Supreme Court of Nigeria to set aside the N2.4 billion judgment debt against it, it alleged, through a motion in suit number: SC/694/2014, that the Court of Appeal judgement in Ibadan (CA/I/258/2011) was procured by suspicious means. But the Supreme Court in its wisdom, and rightly, dismissed that unfounded and exasperating claim in May 2017. 

As a result, Innoson commenced a N400 billion suit against GTBank, in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/2448/2017, at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Also pending before the Court of Appeal is an appeal on whether there is any charge at the Federal High Court, given the police withdrawal of the charge. 

Even though the motion for a stay of proceedings was dismissed by the Court of Appeal while the substantive appeal is still ongoing, Innoson has appealed against that decision to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in suit number: SC:839/2017. 

The Office of the Attorney-General is proceeding with the case even after the police have withdrawn their charges because they had not concluded investigation.

At the Supreme Court, Innoson filed motions to quash the directive of the Court of Appeal which had erroneously ruled that proceedings should continue despite police having withdrawn from the case at the High Court. 

Innoson has served the Federal High Court notices of the motions pending at the Supreme Court.

Therefore, contrary to media reports, Justice Faji did not adjourn on October 10, 2017 to November 21, 2017 for hearing of the application for issuance of bench warrant.

Rather, the judge requested time to study ruling of the Court of Appeal and to hear Innoson’s and others’ preliminary objections. 

There was no pending application for issuance of bench warrant against Innoson Group executives before Honourable Justice Faji on October 10, 2017.

Cornel Osigwe
Head of Corporate Communications
Innoson Group


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