The Senate has mandated its committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes to investigate circumstances surrounding the arrest of the Managing Director of Innoson Motors, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, and report back today.
The chamber roundly condemned Chukwuma’s ordeal at the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), urging President Muhammadu Buhari to call the commission’s acting chairman to order.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, in his final intervention, deplored the action, saying: “This does not speak well for the country. How a private transaction has become the business of the EFCC is what I do not know. I have not seen the FBI intervene between people involved in a transaction. We are just making a mockery of the institution.”
The Chukwuka Utazi-led anti-corruption committee was also asked to investigate an allegation that an EFCC operative slapped the wife of Chukwuma during a raid on his house in Enugu.
Chukwuma was arrested on Tuesday over alleged refusal to repay a loan to Guaranty Trust Bank.
The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who brought the matter to the floor had raised Order 42 of the Standing Rules, telling his colleagues the arrest was a national disgrace and an abuse of fundamental human rights. According to him, “The detention of Innocent Chukwuma is purely a civil matter.”
Chukwuma, however, has denied jumping an administrative bail granted to him by the EFCC, even as he urged the commission to allow a logical conclusion in the court processes between him and the GTB.
He was yesterday afternoon moved to Lagos, after spending a night at the commission’s cell in Enugu.
Sources said he flew in an Arik flight, dressed in shorts and T-shirt and accompanied by officials of the anti-graft agency.
In a statement by Mr. Cornel Osigwe, head of corporate communications, Innoson Group, Chukwuma denied mobilising thugs to manhandle EFCC operatives during his arrest.
Describing his purported invitation by the commission as false, he said that as a law-abiding citizen, a public figure, and a well-known industrialist of international repute, it was unthinkable he would ignore an invitation from the commission or any established agency of government.
“Dr. Chukwuma has never had any issue or query from the EFCC recently. The last issue he had with EFCC was an invitation extended to him in 2012, based on a complaint against him by GTB, and which he duly honoured.”
Meanwhile, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) and Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) have condemned the arrest in separate statements in Enugu, with OYC threatening to withdraw its investments in GTB and organise massive protests to press for the unconditional release of Chukwuma.
“If Innoson Motors was owned by an Hausa Fulani man, he would have been revered and idolised to high heavens. But because it is a business owned and run by a Biafran, and equally sited in Biafra land, it must be destroyed,” said IPOB.
In another development, the Senate yesterday rejected a plan by the presidency to sell some key national assets including the Tafawa Balewa Square and the National Theatre to finance the 2018 budget.
A swift reaction to stand down the sale was sequel to an adopted motion sponsored by Senator Fatimat Raji-Rasaki (Ekiti Central).
Yesterday, placard-carrying workers at the theatre embarked on a peaceful demonstration against the sale.
Dayo Akogun, branch chairman of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), condemned the move, joined by Mr. Dare Durosimi, Lagos State chairman of the Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), founder of the Royal Star Entertainment Production (ROSEP), Alagba Femi Tade, and others.