The Senate has resolved to intervene in the arrest of the Chairman of Innoson Motors, Innocent Chukwuma, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
While criticizing the EFCC for the arrest on Wednesday, Dec. 20, the lawmakers mandated the Senate Committee on Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption to investigate the matter and report back to the chamber within 24 hours.
The lawmakers accused the EFCC of highhandedness and using a military approach in arresting the industrialist.
Operatives of the EFCC, accompanied by heavily armed policemen, had stormed Chukwuma’s home at Savage Crescent in the GRA area of Enugu State on Tuesday, Dec. 19, during which some of the senators alleged that his wife was assaulted before the businessman was forcefully arrested.
The decision to probe the arrest by the lawmakers followed a point of order raised by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu at the plenary on Wednesday. In Ekweremadu’s words:
“Yesterday I got a number of messages indicating that Mr. Innocent Chukwuma was arrested by the EFCC over a transaction between him and GTB.
“This morning I made an effort and I spoke with him, his story is straightforward, he said he was at his house at 5:00 am Tuesday morning when he heard gunshots and he thought they were assassins and so he went into hiding after about two hours he saw some police and he thought that help had come, so he came out of his hiding and ran to the policeman who promptly arrested him. As he was trying to find out what was his offense, they told him when they get to the police station they will inform him of the offense. As at today, nobody has told him what the offense is.
“Any person who is arrested and detained should be informed reason for his arrest. As I speak, Mr. Innoson Chukwuma is yet to be informed of what led to his arrest or detention but if you go through the media today, the story is that he is owing GTB. As a lawyer, I’m at a loss how a transaction between someone and his bank will inform the EFCC.”
“The story he told me is that he is not owing the bank anything, he borrowed money from the bank which he has since repaid but the bank kept charging money and withdrawing it from his account. They set up an audit and the auditor came to a conclusion that they had deducted more than N500 million, he was insisting on 22 percent, the bank said they will pay 17 percent so that is where they had the disagreement and they now went to court and it gave judgement in its favour at the federal high court and the court of appeal and the matter is at the supreme court. The fact that matter is in court and it was a commercial transaction gives no room for the intervention of EFCC, I’d like to appeal to this Senate to ensure that Mr Innocent Chukuwma is released promptly.”
In his contribution, Sam Anyanwu, (Imo-PDP), questioned the Senate’s silence over alleged continued impunity of the EFCC.
“I want to ask a question. EFCC as it stands today, does it have a chairman? Because I knew in this chamber, the head of EFCC was rejected during screening because of poor performance and yet he has been there as chairman.
“There was a businessman from Imo State that was killed in EFCC custody. The body is still in the mortuary till today. These are the kind of things we are seeing in this country, why must we allow it to continue?
“We have been talking about promoting made in Nigeria goods. This man manufactures vehicles, he has over 5, 000 people in his employment, he has international partners. What are you projecting before them? That he is a criminal? If we as Senate allow this to continue, there is nothing else that will ever work.
“We rejected somebody here, yet he is allowed. Are there no other Nigerians who are credible to fight corruption? Every small thing, EFCC. Tomorrow, if a wife refuses to give his man sex, they will go and call EFCC. It will get to that point,” Anyanwu said.
Enyinnaya Abaribe, (Abia-PDP), threw the Senate into a rowdy session when he announced that the operatives of EFCC slapped the wife of Mr. Chukwuma.
“Another incident happened in his house. The wife asked a question; why are you arresting my husband? What has happened and they slapped her.”
Bwacha Emmanuel, (Taraba-PDP), called for the perpetrator of the act to be fished out and punished.
“As a member of this Senate, I sponsored a motion to call for support of the anti-corruption war but as I listen to this story. If truly the wife of Innocent Chukwuma was slapped by a member of EFCC, something has to be done. Somebody must be held responsible, somebody must lose his job. Otherwise, we’ll be wasting our time here.”
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The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted that the EFCC will drag the country into ridicule if the issue is not addressed promptly.
“As a society that we are all planning, that our country to be civilized, I think this does not speak well of the country. How a private commercial transaction has now become the focus of the EFCC.
“I think this area is the focus. Whether he is owing or not, I think we must be seen protecting the fundamental rights of citizens. I’ve never seen when FBI interferes between City Bank and Ford Motors, or the financial crime agency in UK intervenes. We are just making a mockery of ourselves and we really should be able to do the right thing.”
The Senate, however, rejected the motion by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, which was seconded by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, that the Committee on Women Affairs investigates the alleged assault on Chwukuma’s wife by EFCC operatives. Rather, the lawmakers added the task to the terms of reference of the probe panel.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has announced the release of Innocent Chukwuma on bail. A statement issued by the EFFC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren reads:
”The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has released Nnewi, Anambra-State born Industrialist, Chief Innocent Chukwuma on bail.
”The businessman who runs a local auto assembly plant was arrested on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, at his Enugu residence, following his refusal to respond to invitations by the Commission, after initially being granted administrative bail by the Commission, while his surety could also not be found.
”Unfortunately the industrialist resisted arrest and stirred controversy by bringing six truck-loads of thugs to block the entrance to his Plot W1, Industrial Layout, Abakaliki Road, Emene, Enugu, home.
”This was after he initially misled the Police Command by informing them that his home had been invaded by armed robbers and kidnappers despite the fact that operatives of the Commission duly identified themselves to policemen guarding his home.
”His unruly thugs encircled and manhandled operatives of the Commission who had gone to effect the arrest. Consequently, a distress call was sent to the Commission’s Enugu Office for reinforcement.
“In all of this, the Commission’s operatives acted with decorum and civility. No one was manhandled or assaulted by the EFCC team, and not a single shot was fired, despite the provocation.
”Chief Chukwuma and his brother, Charles Chukwuma (who is still at large), are being investigated by the Insurance and Capital Market Fraud Section of the Commission’s office in Lagos over matters bordering on N1,478,366,859.66 fraud and forgery.
‘The industrialist, among other infractions, allegedly used forged documents to secure tax waivers.”