By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
The Senate chamber raged in anger yesterday as senators condemned in totality the Tuesday morning arrest of the Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Motors Nigeria by the operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in his Enugu residence.
After an exhaustive debate on the incident by the senators who serially criticized the EFCC for meddling into what should be a business transaction between Innoson Motors and his bankers, Guarantee
Trust Bank, the senate passed a resolution mandating its committee on Anti Corruption and Financial Crimes to carry out a thorough investigation of the raid and report back to Senate within twenty four hours.
This followed a Point of Order, 42 and 52 raised by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who informed the Red Chamber about how a mere business transaction between Innocent Chukwuma and GT Bank was escalated beyond measure by the latter prompting an invitation of the anti-corruption agency who allegedly stormed the home of Chukwuma, breaking into the premises, and giving the impression that the EFCC was at the premises to arrest a common criminal.
Ekweremadu said “At the inception of the Senate we took an oath to defend the constitution, one of the most important part of our constitution is the one that deals with the liberty of our citizens.”
He further relayed how Innocent Chukwuma was involved in a transaction with the GTBank; the disagreement that ensued over a loan the industrialist took and had repaid and the said disagreements prompted the invitation of an auditor to ascertain what percentage will accrue to either of the party leading to a point where the EFCC was allegedly being invited to muscle Chukwuma.
He also told the Senate that the victim is still being held in EFCC custody without knowing what his offences were. He said “As I speak Mr. Innocent is yet to be informed of what led to his arrest. If you go through the entire story, you will think he owes the GTB. As a lawyer, I wonder how a transaction between a customer and his bank could involve the EFCC,” he said.
The Deputy President of the Senate also revealed to his colleagues at plenary that Chukwuma, while talking to him on phone said the loan was paid in full, but the bank had consistently deducted money from his account; this according to Ekweremadu, compelled the victim to engage an auditor who ascertained his claim and found that some over-deductions have been made and the matter was taken to court where it is presently being heard.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Ehinaya Abaribe warned of the dangers of what is slowly brewing in the polity.
His words: “If we are not careful, all of us will fall victim of this. Yesterday, a Principal Officer was invited to the EFCC. What we don’t know is what motivates them. EFCC in its Twitter handle said they invited Innocent but he refused to come. Innocent said he was never invited.
“The Wife of Innocent asked why her husband was being arrested, and she was slapped. How can a commercial transaction between a man and his bank involve the EFCC? How can state institutions be used for personal purposes? It means EFC is involved in self help. We are not running a Banana Republic,” Abaribe stressed.
Senator Barnabas Gemade, in his contributions, used the opportunity to X-ray what the power of the naira is doing to erode the viable contributions of good and public spirited investors, like the CEO of Innoson motors.
He said, “Banks who trade in money have become laws in the country. Money is such a scarce commodity that those that deal in it are laws unto themselves. Bankers are parasites feeding fat on the system; those producing goods and services are more important to us that bank Managers and Directors.
“CEO’s of banks are now so important, they own properties at choice locations; and you ask what did this man produce to have this kind of money?”
The Senate Deputy Leader, Ibn N’allah lamented that some of the occurrences witnessed in the land is not obtainable in civilized climes.
“These things don’t happen in other climes, before you cross someone’s gate, it must be for very compelling reasons. Is there no way to follow a civilized standard to bring him to answer to questions, rather than to break his fence and arrest him?” he queried.
Sensing the mood of Senators, especially that of female senators who could not contain the account that the wife of Innocent Chukwuma was slapped by EFCC operatives, President of the Senate urged seriously that the matter be brought to an end; but re-echoed the importance of having the committees swing into action fast.
He said, “Senate has the right to protect the people. How many times have you heard that the FBI and the Intercity bank is involved in an act like this? Something really needs to be done,” he said.