In 2011, a business dispute arose between GTB and Innoson and GTB decided to use EFCC machinery in resolving it.
On Sept 9th 2011, GTB through its lawyers, Anoka & Associates of 195 Ikorodu Road, Palmgroove, Lagos, petitioned Innoson to the EFCC to help it recover its money from Innoson.
Then in September 21st 2011, EFCC invited Innoson to respond to the said petition and on Sept 26th 2011, Innoson responded to the EFCC invitation at their Lagos office and gave its own side of story according to questions that arose from the petitions.
Innoson explained to the EFCC that it was GTB that supposed to pay him a judgment debt of about N2.4B. Innoson narrated to EFCC about the unlawful seizure and auction of his goods by the Customs and to the point of the court ruling mandating GTB to pay Innoson the judgment debt from Customs account in its bank.
Innoson made EFCC to understand that he has never defaulted in any payment and even he was making payment until the court ruling. He told EFCC that his disagreement with the GTB was that he requested GTBto deduct the balance from the judgment debt due to be paid to him by GTB.
Furthermore, in the course of EFCC’s investigation, Innoson discovered that GTB stole N780Million from his company’s current account through illegal withdrawals and charges. Subsequently, GTB admitted in writing, having stolen N560 Million from Innoson’s account. EFCC confirmed this theft by GTB but failed to charge GTB to court for financial crimes.
However at the conclusion of its investigation based on GTB petition, EFCC through its letter of 20th September 2012 informed Innoson that he should still pay a certain amount to GTB.
Innoson disagreed with EFCC’s position and demand contained in its letter of 20th September, 2012 on the ground that it should be GTB that shall pay it interest on the N560Million it stole at 22% being the rate at which GTB lent it money as that was what CBN guidelines demands on such crimes.
Thereafter a stalemate arose and Innoson commenced Suit No: FHC/AWK/CS/139/2012 against GTB at Federal High Court Awka division claiming 22% interest thereof from the date GTB started the stealing.
However, on 16th May, 2013, after a long legal tussle in which GTB was represented by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the trial Court delivered judgment in the sum of N4.7Billion in favour of Innoson against GTB.
When the judgment was delivered in favour of Innoson, GTB went back to EFCC to instigate it to initiate and prosecute a criminal charge against Innoson.
GTB had accused Innoson of forging shipping documents which was in its possession.
However after its investigation, EFCC confirmed that;
a. Innoson collected all the Bills of Lading consigned to GTB with the consent of GTB;
b. before collection, Innoson wrote letters to GTBasking it to endorse the bill of ladings to it and to pay the duties necessary for clearing the goods from the seaport;
c. GTB paid Customs duties for all the bill of ladings Innoson used to clear the goods, including the ones GTB claimed were forged or that the signatures of its staff thereof were forged;
d. GTB released all the Bill of Ladings including the one in issue to Innoson and that Innoson signed for each of the bill of Ladings in a register kept by GTB– GTB released the Bill of Lading after Innoson signed the register;
e. GTB failed to produce the register claiming that it was destroyed by the fire that razed its office;
f. after clearing each good including the ones evidenced by the bill of lading in issue, Innoson returned the foreign exchange control copies to GTB and GTB transmitted them to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN);
g. a GTB staff – Mr. Okechukwu Okeke – who transacted with Innoson’s staff gave evidence that he released the bill of ladings in issue to Innoson’s staff;
h. the shipping company – Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. – whose ship carried the goods confirmed that the bill of ladings – including the ones in issue – were not forged and that none of GTB’s staff’s signatures endorsed thereon was forged.
In spite of these confirmations, GTB still impressed on EFCC to file a criminal charge against Innoson in order to embarrass him. Subsequently EFCC filed ChargeNo. ID/197C/2013 in Dec 2013, against Innoson and two others at the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja. Later, in 2014, the charge was struck out.
However Innoson through his counsel appealed against the order striking out the charge, that it ought to be dismissed and as well filed a motion on notice at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division praying among others that EFCC be restrained from filing a further charge in respect of the same subject matter until determination of the appeal –Appeal Nos: CA/L/1328CM/17, CA/L/1329CM/17 & CA/L/1330CM/17.
Also Charge No: FHC/L/565c/2015 in respect of the same subject matter, transaction and issues as Charge No: ID/197C/2013 is also pending and subsisting at the Federal High Court Lagos against Innoson and others, same being instigated by GTB.
While this charge is still pending, EFCC in a clear abuse of court process, filed Charge No:ID/6696c/2017 at the Lagos State High Court Ikeja against Innoson in respect of the same subject matter, the same issues, the same parties and transactions.
Therefore Nigerians should ask EFCC; are they still a Federal Government Agency or are they GTB private establishment that does its bidding at will.
Furthermore GTB should stop using EFCC machinery to intimidate honest and upright entrepreneurs in Nigeria. They should accept the consequence of bad legal advices it received from their counsels and pay Innoson his money. Today GTB total indebtedness to Innoson is above N20 Billion naira.
Public Affairs Analyst