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Innoson EFCC arrest and the GTB Loan: The facts behind the saga, By James Osaremen

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Recently, the Innoson/GTBank story has gained so much media prominence, especially following the arrest of the Innonson chairman a few days ago by EFCC. Though the case is pending in court, Innoson has taken the battle to social media. There have been numerous sponsored social media campaigns against the Bank such as #BewareOfGTBank and #WhatIsWrongWithGTBank. The company has also gone Television, with its owner, Dr Innocent Chukwuma granting an interview to TVC, where he claimed he had obtained a judgement of N8bn against the bank. He added that the bank pleaded with him over their inability to pay, and that he graciously offered to accept shares of the bank as payment.

GTBank on their part has chosen to remain silent on the matter, perhaps trusting in the integrity of the legal system as against playing to the gallery. Many attempts by us to get the bank’s representatives to comment on the story has proven abortive. A staff of the bank who spoke under anonymity, stated “Irrespective of the issues we are facing with the company, Innoson remains a customer of the bank and we owe him a duty of confidentiality and to conduct ourselves in a responsible manner towards him”. This statement didn’t stop us from conducting our own investigations on the matter, and below are our findings, put in bullet points for your optimum understanding.

The obvious:

Innoson is, and still remains, a customer of GTBank.

What we discovered:

1. GTBank (in 2009) granted Innoson several credit facilities (i.e loans) totalling N2,400,000,000,00 (two billion, four hundred million Naira only), to part finance working capital requirements, import new motorcycles and motorcycle spare parts, agricultural spare parts and plastic manufacturing equipment (“Imported Goods”).

2. Under the loan terms agreed by Dr. Innocent Chukwuma on behalf of Innoson, proprietary interest in the Imported Goods was consigned exclusively in favour of the Bank. This means that the Bank was the exclusive owner of the Imported Goods. Accordingly, the original shipping documents (i.e. the Bills of Lading) were in the custody of the Bank, and have remained in the custody of the Bank at all times.

3. Because GTBank was the exclusive owner of the imported goods, ownership of the goods could only be transferred to Innoson (or any other third party) by the Bank. The condition in the agreement between the Bank and Innoson, for the release of the Imported Goods by the Bank to Innoson, was the payment of 25% of the value of each Letter of Credit transaction by Innoson.

What we learnt:

1. Innocent Chukwuma approached the Bank, on behalf of Innoson, requesting the release of the shipping documents without payment of the agreed+ 25% equity. The Bank declined his request as a result of Innoson’s failure to meet the agreed conditions.

2. It came to the Bank’s knowledge sometime in June, 2011 that the Imported Goods for which the Bank declined to release shipping documents to Innoson in view of its failure to meet the agreed conditions, had been fraudulently procured by Innoson.

3. The Bank discovered that Innoson, under the control of Dr. Innocent Chukwuma had forged the Bank’s endorsement on the bills of lading to the Shipping Line and fraudulently cleared the Imported Goods which were in the name of the Bank. The Imported Goods, being property of the Bank should not have been cleared from the Port without the original shipping documents being endorsed by the Bank in favour of Innoson, or any third party.

4. The signatures of 4 (four) staff of the Bank, to wit, Taofeek Olalere, Dan Attah, Bunmi Adeyemi and Amazu Amalachukwu, as well as the Bank’s stamp were forged on all the shipping documents used by Innoson to fraudulently clear goods at the port. The Bank did not at any time endorse or transfer the shipping documents to Innoson, as the originals of each of the relevant Bill of Lading remain in the Bank’s custody to this very day.

5. When the Bank reported the matter to the Nigeria Police, Dr. Innocent Chukwuma claimed the Bank released the shipping documents to him. Consequently, the Police commenced investigation into the Bank’s complaint, including a forensic examination of the disputed signatures, and established that the signatures of the Bank’s staff were forged, and the Imported Goods were fraudulently cleared from the Nigerian Ports Authority by Dr. Innocent Chukwuma and his accomplices.

What we heard from the Police:

1. Police investigations confirmed that Innoson and Dr. Innocent Chukwuma deliberately set out to defraud, steal from the Bank and convert the Imported Goods belonging to the Bank by deceptive means and through forgery and misrepresentation. The unlawful takeover of the Imported Goods, which served as the Bank’s collateral, left an indebtedness in excess of the sum of N1,654,481,895.04 (one billion, six hundred and fifty four million, four hundred and eighty one thousand, eight hundred and ninety five Naira, four Kobo) as at September 26, 2012.

2. Chief Innocent Chukwuma was arrested and interrogated by operatives of the EFCC, following which he agreed to make monthly payments into Innoson’s account until the full liquidation of Innoson’s indebtedness to the Bank. However, Innoson defaulted in making the agreed payments. Investigations by the Nigeria Police following a petition by the Bank in September 2013 also found Innoson and Chief Innocent Chukwuma culpable of the criminal allegations levied against them by the Bank, and Chief Innocent Chukwuma was accordingly charged to court by the Police.

3. The Police filed Charge No. FHC/L/565C/2015-Inspector General Of Police And Innoson Nigeria Limited; Innocent Chukwuma;Charles Chukwuma;Maximian Chukwura; Mitsui Osk Lines; Annajekwu Sunny for fraudulent clearance of goods, forgery, conversion, stealing and conspiracy presently pending before Faji J, at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi and adjourned to November 21, 2017 for arraignment/or hearing of motion for issuance of Bench Warrant.

What Innoson did:

1. Innoson approached the Bank for a reconciliation of his account and pleaded for a debt forgiveness. A reconciliation was carried out on the account – which had a debit balance of N1,654,481,895.04 as at December 31, 2011. In the spirit of amicable resolution and EFCC intervention, the Bank said it agreed to forego the sum of N559,374,072.09 which represented default charges that has accrued on the account and debited in line with the loan agreement between the customer and the Bank.

2. Based on this, the Bank decided to accept from the customer, the sum of N1,095,107,822.95 as full and final payment of the customer’s indebtedness to the Bank, provided that same shall be fully paid not later than (30) days from the date of the letter written to him

3. Surprisingly, Innoson commenced suit no:FHC/AWK/CS/2012 against the Bank at the Federal High Court, Awka stating the bank had debited its account with excess charges totalling N559,374,072.09 and obtained judgement in excess of N4.7Billion against the Bank. Again choosing to dishonour an agreement that was amicable reached between him and the Bank for a full and final settlement of N1,095,107,822.95 wherein the Bank graciously forgave him the sum of N559,374,072.09 which accrued on his account during the period which he abandoned his account.

4. To further stall the criminal proceedings against him, Chief Innocent Chukwuma and his company instituted suits at the Federal High Court, Abuja, as well as the Federal High Court, Awka in January 2014 against The Inspector General of Police, The Nigeria Police Force and Investigating Officer(s), seeking declaratory and injunctive reliefs, including orders restraining the Police from commencing criminal proceedings against Innoson and Chief Innocent Chukwuma. Furthermore, in a bid to stall the Bank’s recovery steps, and distract the Bank from focusing on the criminal action, as well as civil actions filed for recovery of the debt, Chief Innocent Chukwuma and his company Innoson, have continued to institute various spurious suits before various courts, claiming frivolous and outrageous sums against the Bank.

What GTBank is not saying:

1. In responding to Innoson’s motion for a stay of criminal proceedings at the Court of Appeal, the Honourable Justice J.S Ikyegh on September 17,2017 dismissed the motion for being unmeritorious and ordered that proceeding in the criminal case against Innson should proceed.

2. On October 12, 2017, the Police through its Charge No. FHC/L/565C/2015- filed an application for the issuance of bench warrant against Innocent Chukwuma; Charles Chukwuma and Annajekwu Sunny for fraudulent clearance of goods, forgery, conversion, stealing and conspiracy presently pending before Faji J, at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi and adjourned to Decemeber 8, 2017 for arraignment/or hearing of motion.

What we think:

Innoson should stop trying to play the underdog and simply resolve his issues through legal means or arbitration. On Innoson playing the Igbo tribe card, this is not in good taste in this moment in history. We are aware of GTBank’s strong position on unpaid debts. We know GTBank has gone often several debtors of the bank irrespective of who they are or where they come from. So why is Innoson’s matter now tribal? Please, this makes no sense. Innoson and GTBank, resolve your issues privately and let us all hear word.

Merry Christmas my people
James Osaremen
Lagos

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BUSINESS

Lagos set to host second Nigeria Beer Festival

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From Left to Right: Mr. Dele Balogun, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Film and Video Censors Board ;Mr. FolaAdeyemi, Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and Mr. Akinola Oluwaleimu, Chief Co-ordinator, Nigeria Beer Festival Group at the media interactive session on the festival in Lagos on Wednesday

After a successful and large participation of people at the first edition of the Nigeria Beer Festival which debuted last year in Lagos, the organiser the event has announced that Lagos will be hosting the second edition again.

The week-long event will hold on Thursday October 25th to Wednesday October 31st at the Eko Atlantic City, Bar Beach Water front Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos to give it a carnival-like atmosphere .

Speaking at a press conference to announce the event in Lagos on Wednesday, Mr. Fola Adeyemi, the Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture explained that the festival is in line with government’s agenda to grow the tourism and economy of the state.

He stated that Lagos state is collaborating with beer brewers in the country and their counterparts across the globe to stimulate the economic and tourism potentials in the State.

He enjoined Lagosians to come out in their large numbers to enjoy the ambience of the festival, assuring that the city is safe for fun lovers because of the various infrastructure development by the state such as Light-up Lagos among others.

“Lagos is a city state and in league with great cities all over the world. We are actually moving the state to a 24 hour economy and this festival will be part of the beneficiaries. Lagos is safe for fun and business. We are joining the global tourism world to create impact on the economy of Lagos and Nigeria.” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Akinola Oluwaleimu, General Manager of On and One Events Limited, the organisers of the festival informed that the festival is to promote culture, tourism, friendship and for beer brands to connect with their consumers.

He added that the festival, will promote responsible drinking among drinking-age (18 +) consumers at all its touch points.

According to him, the event, since it debuted last year, has seen Nigeria enrolled into the league of Beer Festivals around the world, and boost the country’s tourism opportunities.

“It will be a gathering of the largest community of beer consumers from across the country and beyond.This year’s edition will be bigger, better and “beertiful”, he said.

He revealed that the 2017 edition attracted over ten thousand beer enthusiasts and consequently the Festival has proven to become a major international tourist event in Nigeria with a potential to compete with other international beer festivals around the world.

“Nigeria Beer Festival will be a carnival week of entertainment, sales and marketing and a gathering of the largest community of beer consumers from across the country to bond and ‘beer’,” Oluwaleimu assured.

He added that the Nigeria Beer Festival will provide a fitting ambience to showcase culture and lifestyle in a carnival atmosphere with various beer brands and other alcoholic drinks in Nigeria connecting with their existing and potential consumers.

Oluwaleimu maintained that the festival, which will commence 4 p.m daily is a big opportunity for major breweries to exhibit and deliver various offerings of beer brands to the teeming consumers to strengthen brand relationship with them. “The timing promises an after work relaxation environment to bond with friends and associates, he said”

He also acknowledged the support of the Lagos State government through His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who found the private driven initiative worthy enough of its endorsement and providing necessary logistics support in security, health, safety and publicity to ensure a hitch free event.

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Transcorp appoints new management team

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Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), has announced new appointments into its board and executive management. The company in a statement Tuesday said Valentine Ozigbo, has been appointed as its President/CEO with effect from January 1, 2019. He will succeed Adim Jibunoh, who is retiring on December 31.

The statement said Mr Ozigbo, currently the MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc, owner of the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Abuja, will bring over 20 years’ experience in banking, business development, hospitality and corporate transformation. ‘‘A multiple award winner, Mr Ozigbo holds an M.Sc. Finance from Lancaster University, UK; an MBA in Banking & Finance and a B.Sc. in Accounting from the University of Nigeria. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

‘‘Similarly, Owen Omogiafo has been appointed as the MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc effective from January 1, 2019. She is currently the Executive Director, Corporate Services at Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc,” the statement added.

Also according to the statement, Mrs Omogiafo has over 18 years’ corporate experience in organisational development strategy, human capital management, banking, change and business management. The Board of Transcorp also approved the appointments of Obi Ibekwe and Toyin Sanni as Non-Executive Directors, following the retirement of Kayode Fasola and Abdulqadir Bello.

These appointments are effective October 30, 2018. ‘‘While Ms Sanni was Group Chief Executive Officer at United Capital Plc , a position she retired from in June., Ms Ibekwe holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.A., a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Lagos and an MBA degree from the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, U.S.A. She has over two decades experience in banking, holding senior executive and senior management positions spanning credit and marketing, credit risk management, human resources and customer service,” the statement read in part.

The company also announced the appointment of Emmanuel Nnorom as the Chairman of its Board, following the retirement of Mr Bello. Speaking on these appointments, the Chairman of Transcorp, Tony Elumelu, reportedly expressed his confidence that the newly appointed chief executives and non-executive directors will further strengthen Transcorp’s core purpose of improving lives across Nigeria.

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BUSINESS

Diamond Bank launches Visa Signature Debit Card

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Diamond Bank Plc has launched Visa Signature Debit Card, which is designed specifically for affluent clients. The bank in a statement issued at the weekend, said the product is a unique naira debit card designed to provide customers exceptional spending power and exclusive privileges.

According to Diamond Bank, the new debit card gives affluent customers the opportunity to have wider and richer experiences when they relax or travel, home and abroad.

Head, Consumer Banking, Diamond Bank, Karimot Tukur, said “our customers told us that they want more travel benefits, greater peace of mind and something a lot more rewarding than they get from an everyday current account.”

She said with the Diamond Visa Signature Debit card, together with Xclusive Plus, customers get access to over 800 airport lounges around the world, VIP treatment at top hotels and complimentary worldwide travel insurance for trips paid for on the card.

Adding that the insurance is even valid for foreign visa applications, Tukur added “our customers also get great entertainment benefits closer to home, including complementary event tickets through the year and free cinema tickets.”

Diamond Bank is one of the fastest growing retail banks. Through innovation and technology, Diamond Bank enhances customer experiences and drives financial inclusion in what is known as ‘Beyond Banking’.

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