Chukwuma – GTBank Spat: Judgment Of The People! – By Ehichioya Ezomon
By Ehichioya Ezomon
As the legalese goes, those seeking equity must come with clean hands, so that in arbitration, they can get justice. This concept of equity has wired the lingering squabbles over loan facilities, judgment debts and alleged falsification of shipping documents between the Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Motors, Chief Innocent Chukwuma and Guarantee Trust Bank (GTBank).
It’s not in my purview to determine who, between the parties, came to equity with (without) clean hands. But from information placed in the public domain, Nigerians could ascertain that, which is reflective of the chain of reactions to last Tuesday’s arrest of Chief Chukwuma by operatives of the EFCC in Enugu.
Suffice it to say that if you think the madman is all screwball, then let him explain the source of the burning bush: He will point to the spot he ignites a “small” fire, and not the raging inferno. In other words, the fire he sets can’t spread out!
That’s what’s known as “unintended consequence(s),” which the arrest of Chukwuma has brought upon those that reportedly masterminded the incarceration of the industrialist for over 24 hours, over the dispute that has run the gamut of the Nigerian law courts practically in his favour.
The EFCC storming of Chukwuma’s home, not only prompted an unprecedented single-day investigation by the Senate, but it has also energized his sympathizers, and concerned Nigerians to call for a run on millions of customers’ accounts with the GTBank.
Going by media reports, “about N18 billion had been withdrawn and over 2.7 million accounts closed within two days after the (Chukwuma) arrest,” a claim the bank debunked on Thursday on its Facebook page.
But what’s not in dispute is that following the media buzz on the Chukwuma arrest, and alleged withdrawal and closure of many accounts, GTBank had to file a notice to an obviously alarmed Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on Thursday, to explain that all was well with the bank’s operations.
We hope GTBank will sustain this stand because the NSE is not known for frivolities; it only “summons for explanation” when it views that the activities of any capitalized entity are or about to be in dire straits, such as reportedly happening to the GTBank.
While the jury is still out, let me err on the side of sentiment in the wake of criticism of people of the South-East, for accusingly trying to localize Chukwuma’s arrest as directed at Ndigbo. The people had reached a breaking point over the harassment and intimidation of their son for close to a decade. Hence, they reacted accordingly. Aren’t other Nigerians pissed off likewise?
I think there are three (probably a few more) not politically-exposed persons (PEPs) Nigerians, who belong to our so-called Tripod – Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo (WAZOBIA) tribes – that should be handled with some kid gloves. They are: Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr. (Yoruba), Alhaji Aliko Dangote (Hausa/Fulani) and Chief Innocent Chukwuma (Igbo).
What do these gentlemen have in common? Business. They are ‘Business Moguls, Magnates, Tycoons’ – big-time entrepreneurs, with tentacles in varying fields of commerce, manufacturing, transportation, energy, oil and gas, agriculture, finance and banking, telecommunications, aviation, etc.
The trio individually directly employ tens of thousands of Nigerians, and through deliberate policies have also made Millionaires of many. And the beauty of their modus operandi is being the faces of the New Nigeria that we have been yearning for. Their enterprises are Nigeria-centric: Home grown, Made-in-Nigeria, with local contents. Consider the following:
* A time was when cement was a very scarce commodity in Nigeria; in the days of its bulk importation in barges, to be repackaged locally into 50kgs. But with Dangote establishing several cement companies in parts of Nigeria, that story is history.
* The early foreign-owned GSM telecoms services in Nigeria were still virtually for the haves, both in line purchases and call rates. But in came Adenuga’s GLO, the self-styled “Grand Masters of Data,” and its introduction of per seconds billing. Today, Nigeria has one of the fastest growing GSM/Internet/Data penetrations in the world.
* We are a net importer of automobiles, new and fairly-used. But one man, Chukwuma, with Innoson Motors, is changing that outlook by manufacturing vehicles of all shapes and sizes in Nigeria. He recently unveiled a Made-in-Nigeria Jeep (Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV)), and has signaled the commencement of production of cars in early 2018. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited the company a few months ago and, impressed with the production line, promised government’s assistance and patronage of its products.
So, dealing with such Nigerians, especially in civil matters, shouldn’t be a matter of “The law is no respecter of persons,” or “Everybody is equal before the law.” But we have learned in the Orwellian metaphor that “Some animals are more equal than others.”
Nonetheless, this is not a matter of law and order, but of common economic sense. The arrest of Chief Innocent Chukwuma is reportedly being felt in the house of GTBank – money allegedly being pulled out could more than double the judgment debts the bank argues paying would liquidate its assets.
I hope, and pray that GTBank is right: That the said “withdrawals and closures” of accounts are “rumours, innuendoes and false statements that are being spread by mischievous elements, both in the news and on social media.” Otherwise, actions definitely have consequences!
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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