N32Bn Debt : I'm Waiting To Take Over Gtbank - Innoson Group Boss, Chukwuma - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Friday, November 19, 2021

N32Bn Debt : I'm Waiting To Take Over Gtbank - Innoson Group Boss, Chukwuma




 The Daily Crucible | Published Friday,  November 19, 2021

The battle between Guaranty Trust Bank and Innocent Chukwuma, chairman, Innoson Group, took a new dimension on Thursday with the billionaire expressing the optimism
that he will soon take over the bank.

The Daily Crucible recalls that Innoson and GTB have been entangled in a long drawn business dispute culminating in an epic legal battle in court.

The vehicle manufacturer had secured judgment debt against GTbank in suit FHC/L/Cs/603/2006 and FHC/Cs/139/2012 respectively, a debt that had climbed to over N32 billion following years of accumulated interest.

Particularly In 2019, Innoson Nigeria Limited obtained a writ of Fifa from the Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State, against GTB to effect the judgment given by the Federal High Court in Ibadan and upheld by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The court in Ibadan had ordered GTB by way of Garnishee order absolute – to pay N2.4bn to Innoson with a 22% interest, per annum, on the judgment sum until the final liquidation of the judgment debt.

The decision was also upheld at the Supreme Court.

In November 2020, GTB had obtained an approval-in-principle from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commence a formal process of restructuring to a financial holding company (holdco).

Also,  in June this year,  the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group) listed Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GT HoldCo) after meeting all the requirements for the new listing.

But in a motion on notice brought before the court by Chukwuebuka Okolo, counsel to Innoson Nigeria Ltd,  the plaintiff asked the court to set aside every step the bank had taken pursuant to the said ex parte order granted in November 2020, even as it prayed for “an order of the court to stay further recognition of Guaranty Trust Bank Holding Company Plc. as a financial or non-financial company and or as a legal entity.”

It reckoned in the statement that GTB’s action constitutes an abuse of court process, knowing that there is an already pending application in suit No: FHC/EN/CS/161/2020 by Innoson before a federal high court in Enugu to restrain it from transmuting to a private and or a financial holding company until it pays the judgment debt.

The statement at the time reads: “While the case in the Enugu division of federal high court is still pending, GTB against its corporate governance rules and in a classical abuse of court process filed and got an ex parte order from the federal high court, Lagos division and without disclosing to the court that the subject matter of its application is already subjudice because injunctive orders have been sought in Suit No: FHC/EN/CS/161/2020, as well as the subject matter of this pending in Enugu division of the federal high court, to restrain GTB from proceeding with the said scheme both in a pending interlocutory and in the substantive suit.” 

In the referred suit in Enugu, Innoson Nigeria Limited, had asked the Federal High Court to stop Guarantee Trust Bank (GTB) Plc from changing its legal status from a public limited liability company until it pays over N32 billion allegedly owed Innoson.

Innoson Nigeria Ltd was worried that with the bank’s move to transmute its legal status, it may be difficult collecting the judgement debt and elected to approach a Federal High Court in Enugu to halt the process.

In the suit filed on November 23 with suit number FHC/EN/CS/161/2020, the company sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the CAC from deregistering the GTB as a public limited liability company and or re-registering the bank as a private limited liability until GTB pays the company outstanding judgment debt of N32, 875, 204, 984.38k arising from Suit Nos: FHC/L/CS/603/2006 and No. FHC/AWK/CS/139/2012 respectively affirmed by the appellate courts.

Innoson Nigeria Ltd also wants the court to issue an order “cancelling the 1st Defendant’s (GTB’s) special resolution and or any other of its resolution that it should be deregistered as a public limited liability company and or be re-registered as a private limited liability company and or a holding company until it–the 1st Defendant (GTB)–pays Innoson Nig Ltd the total outstanding judgment debt of N32, 875, 204, 984.38k (Thirty two Billion, Eight Hundred and seventy Five Million, Two Hundred and four thousand, Nine Hundred and Eight Four Naira, Thirty Eight kobo) arising from suit Nos. FHC/L/CS/603/2006 and FHC/AWk/CS/139/2012 respectively affirmed by the appellate courts in Appeal Nos. CA/1/258/2011, SC.694/2014 and CA/E/288/2013.”

The company also wants the court to issue an order setting aside the No-objection certification issued by SEC on GTB’s proposal to be re-registered as a private limited liability company and as a holding or a holding financial company.

The suit also wants the court to quash the approval-in-principle granted to the bank to operate as a holding or a holding financial company by the CBN.

The fifth prayer in the suit is for “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 2nd Defendant from granting the 1st Defendant a financial holding company license and or a final approval to operate or carry on business as a financial holding company whether in its present name or as a private limited liability company until it, the 1st Defendant pays the Plaintiff the total outstanding judgement debt of N32, 875, 204, 984. 38k (Thirty Two Billion, Eight Hundred and Seventy-Five Million, Two Hundred and Four Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty-Four Naira, Thirty-Eight Kobo) arising from suit Nos. FHC/L/CS/603/2006 and FHC/AWK/CS/139/2012 respectively affirmed by the appellate courts in Appeal Nos. CA/1/258/2011, SC.694/2014, and CA/E/288/2013.”

However, speaking with journalists yesterday, explained that the then MD and the new Chief Executive Officer of GTCO, Segun Agbaje, is responsible for escalating the case with the bank.

Chukwuma said, “I was GTBANK’s best customer in the South-East when Tayo, the former MD, was alive. Because of this, they opened a branch in Nnewi. After Tayo, the new MD took over. I don’t even know him. I saw him for the first time last year.

“They started fighting about tribe. I am not certain about this but I think the reason he (GTB) is fighting is because of tribe. I don’t know exactly what his problem is.

“But finally, I have proved him wrong in everything. I have defeated him in all the courts we went to. The only thing left is for him to pay me what he owes me.

“He was going to my account and taking money anyhow. I discovered it, took him to court and won. Up till now, he hasn’t paid and we have gone up to supreme court. Maybe he hasn’t paid because he wants Nigeria to change their law because of him.

“The beauty of the whole thing is that the money is attracting the interest of 22 percent. So, I am waiting for the interest to be above their capacity so I can take over the bank. 

“That’s what I am waiting for. I am not disturbing them anymore. I am assuring all the customers of GTB that if I take over, I would still run it well. They shouldn’t fear. I haven’t done any business that fails.

“I will run it better than them. If they cannot pay me, I have no choice but to take over the management.”

The case started in 2012 when Innoson Nigeria Ltd was a customer of GTB Plc.

The company found out that GTB imposed and debited its current account with over N700m excess and unlawful charges.

The bank failed to refund the N700m to Innoson resulting to a law suit.

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