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Nigerian carmaker Innoson pulls a stunt on GTBank

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Thursday, 4 April 2019 12:13

Innoson wants its money back from Guaranty Trust Bank. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Nigerian carmaker Innoson's feud with Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank) took on a dramatic twist last week when it tried to occupy branches of the bank in south-east Nigeria. 

Innoson’s activities – and its 29 March tweet saying it was taking over the bank – led to pandemonium as customers began to fear that their deposits could be affected. In reality the Innoson scuffle does not represent a big threat to the bank’s operations and financial health but it certainly got the manufacturing firm the exposure it wanted.

A legal tussle

The feud goes back to 2011 when Innoson Nigeria realised that GTBank had wrongly debited its account with charges in excess of N700m (then:$4.7m; now: $1.9m). When the bank refused to reimburse Innoson, the firm dragged GTBank to court and secured a judgement in the sum of N4.7bn (now $13m), with 22% annual interest on the debt.

GTBank appealed the decision. Judicial recourse can be a long-winded process in Nigeria, so it was not until 2014 that the Court of Appeal reaffirmed the lower court’s decision.

Climbing the legal ladder

GTBank persisted and took the matter to the Supreme Court. In February 2019, the apex court dashed GTBank’s hopes in a landmark ruling, dismissing the bank’s appeal.

This is when Innoson put on its spurs. The company acquired from the High Court a Writ of Fifa – a writ of execution that permits a sheriff to take goods or property from someone against whom a judgement has been rendered. But when its representatives arrived at GTBank branches employees managed to stop them sealing off entrances to the banks.

GTBank has countered Innoson’s position, saying that the judgement was against the Nigerian Customs Service and not against the bank.

Chukwuma in trouble

In the interim, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) declared Chief Innocent Chukwuma, chairman of Innoson, a wanted man last month. The reason was for his absence in court at the hearing of a separate criminal suit for allegedly forging bank and shipping documents to obtain tax waivers from the Nigerian government.

Chukwuma claims he had been initially been cleared by both law enforcement and the EFCC, pointing an accusing finger at GTBank.

 

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