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EFCC Releases Innoson Boss, Accuses Him of N1.4bn Fraud

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Buses manufactured at INNOSON
  • EFCC Releases Innoson Boss, Accuses Him of N1.4bn Fraud

The Senate Committee on Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption, on Wednesday, quizzed the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, over the arrest of the Chairman/Managing Director of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, Chief Innocent Chukwuma.

Magu, who appeared before the committee to defend the EFCC’s proposed budget for 2018, was questioned behind closed doors for about 30 minutes.

Stepping out of the venue, the EFCC boss confirmed to journalists that Chukwuma was arrested by the anti-graft agency.

He, however, declined to make further comments, promising that the commission would release a statement on the matter soon.

The EFCC later released Chukwuma on bail but accused him and his brother, Charles, of alleged involvement in a N1.4bn fraud.

Earlier on Wednesday, members of the Senate took turns to criticise the EFCC for the manner in which the industrialist was picked up on Tuesday in Enugu.

The lawmakers accused EFCC of highhandedness and adopting military approach in the execution of its duties.

They therefore mandated the Senate Committee on Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption to investigate the matter and report back to the chamber on Thursday.

The Senate, however, rejected an additional prayer by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, which was seconded by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, that the Committee on Women Affairs should investigate the alleged assault on Chwukuma’s wife by the EFCC operatives.

The lawmakers added the task to the terms of reference of the probe panel.

Operatives of the EFCC had stormed Chukwuma’s home at Savage Crescent in the GRA area of Enugu on Tuesday, during which some of the senators alleged that his wife was assaulted before the businessman was arrested forcefully.

The EFCC operatives, who were said to be accompanied by heavily armed policemen, stormed the building around 7.30am.

At the plenary on Wednesday, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, raised a point of order to criticise the EFCC for the arrest, which according to him, is a private matter between a bank and its customer.

“If we reduce our security agencies to agencies of debt recovery, then we are doomed as a nation,” he stated.

Ekweremadu added, “I will like to seek your indulgence to raise the matter of Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, who we call ‘Innoson’, by the EFCC over a matter between Mr. Chukwuma and the Guaranty Trust Bank.”

Narrating details of his conversation with the Innoson boss, the Deputy Senate President said, “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 straight forward: he said he was at his house at 5am on Tuesday when he heard gun shots and he thought they were assassins and he went into hiding.

“After about two hours, he saw some people and policemen, and he thought that help had come. So, he came out of his hiding and ran to a policeman who promptly arrested him. He tried to find out what his offence was and they told him that when they get to the police station, they would inform him of the offence. As of today, nobody has told him what the offence is.

“Any person, who is arrested and detained, should be informed of the reason for the arrest. As I speak, Mr. Innoson Chukwuma has 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 on how a transaction between someone and his bank will concern the EFCC.”

Ekweremadu described Chukwuma as one of the greatest industrialists in Nigeria and who has employed over 5,000 people.

He decried that such a man could be “bundled like a common criminal over a transaction between him and his bank.”

Senator Emmanuel Bwacha stated that if truly Chukwuma’s wife was slapped by an operative of the EFCC as Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe had alleged to have been told, “someone must be held to account; he must lose his job and he must be prosecuted.”

The Deputy Senate President added that the Innoson boss won a case he filed against GTB at a Federal High Court and won again at the Court of Appeal, while the matter was pending at the Supreme Court.

Speaking on the matter, Senator Barnabas Gemade said he would speak from the angle of “misuse of power and authority” by the EFCC.

He said bankers were feeding fat “like parasites” on the country’s economy.

Gemade noted that EFCC would not have taken the step if GTB had not presented a “cooked-up” report to the commission, “with specific inducement to go and deal with this man.”

Also, the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Na’Allah, said there were issues that had made the country to fall below “civic standards.”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks, said those who spoke on the matter raised important issues.

He said, “I think this does not speak well for the country. How would a private commercial transaction now become the focus of the EFCC? I think this is the area where our focus should be.

“Whether he owes (the bank) or not, we must be seen to be protecting the rights of individuals. I don’t think you have heard where FBI interferes in the affairs of Citibank and Fords Motors, or the financial crimes agency in the United Kingdom interferes in an issue between Barclay’s Bank and a customer.

“Honestly, we are just making a mockery of ourselves and we really need to be able to do the right things.”

Meanwhile, the Innoson Group, on Wednesday, said the EFCC lied in the reasons the anti-graft agency gave for the arrest of Chukwuma.

The EFCC had explained that Chukwuma’s arrest followed his “refusal to honour an invitation by the commission, having earlier jumped an administrative bail granted him in a case being investigated by the Capital Market and Insurance Fraud Unit of the commission’s Lagos office.”

The anti-graft agency added that Chukwuma brought six truck-loads of thugs, who manhandled its operatives when they moved to arrest him.

Reacting to the development, Innoson group, in a statement signed by the Head, Corporate Communications, Cornel Osigwe, said the anti-corruption commission lied in the reasons it gave for the arrest as well as in the account of what transpired during the incident.

Innoson group said Chukwuma was never invited by the EFCC.

Meanwhile, the EFCC has released Chukwuma but accused him and his brother, Charles, of perpetrating fraud to the tune of N1.4bn.

The commission said this in a tweet late on Wednesday.

According to the anti-graft agency, the brothers allegedly forged documents to secure tax waivers.

The tweet read, “The EFCC has released Chief Innocent Chukwuma, CEO of INNOSON on bail. Chukwuma and his brother, Charles (who is at large) are being investigated by EFCC’s Capital Market and Insurance Fraud Section for N1,478,366,859.66 fraud. He allegedly forged documents to secure tax waivers.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Oil Prices Slip as Japan’s Rising Inflation Signals Rate Hikes

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Crude oil fell in early trading on Friday as concerns over sustained high interest rates in both Asia and the United States weighed on the outlook.

This trend is attributed to Japan’s increasing inflation, which is prompting expectations of imminent rate hikes by its central bank.

Brent crude edged declined by 11 cents to settle at $85.60 per barrel while the U.S. crude oil declined by 9 cents to $81.20 per barrel.

Recent data revealed that Japan’s core consumer prices rose by 2.5% in May compared to the same month last year. This increase marks a growth from the previous month, suggesting that the Bank of Japan is likely to raise interest rates in the upcoming months to curb inflation.

In the United States, data released on Thursday showed a decrease in the number of new unemployment claims for the week ending June 14, indicating continued strength in the job market.

This persistent robustness in employment raises the likelihood that the U.S. Federal Reserve will maintain higher interest rates for a longer period.

Higher interest rates typically have a dampening effect on economic activity, which can subsequently reduce oil demand.

The prospect of prolonged elevated interest rates in two major economies has therefore put downward pressure on crude oil prices.

Despite the downward trend, oil prices received some support from the latest figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The data showed a drawdown in U.S. crude inventories by 2.5 million barrels in the week ending June 14, bringing the total to 457.1 million barrels. This exceeded analysts’ expectations, who had predicted a 2.2 million-barrel reduction.

Also, gasoline inventories fell by 2.3 million barrels to 231.2 million barrels, contrary to forecasts that anticipated a 600,000-barrel increase.

“Gasoline finally came to life and posted its first strong report of the summer driving season,” remarked Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York, highlighting the surprising uptick in gasoline demand.

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Nembe Creek Oil Field Halted After Leak, Impacting 150,000 bpd

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Nigeria’s oil output has taken a significant hit following the shutdown of the Nembe Creek oil field due to a major oil leak.

The Nembe Creek oil field, responsible for producing approximately 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd), was forced to cease operations on June 17, 2024.

The leak occurred on the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), a critical pipeline that transports oil from the Nembe Creek oil field to the Bonny Oil Export Terminal.

The operator of the pipeline, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, confirmed the leak and the subsequent shutdown in a statement released yesterday.

Aiteo reported that the leak was discovered during routine operations in the Nembe area of Bayelsa State, located in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region.

This region is notorious for environmental degradation due to decades of oil spills, which have severely impacted local agriculture and fishing industries.

Following the discovery of the leak, Aiteo activated its Oil Spill and Emergency Response Team and shut down all production from Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 as a precautionary measure to prevent further environmental damage.

“While we regret the production losses and the potential environmental impact, our current priority is to expedite an efficient spill management process in line with regulatory standards and collaborate with all stakeholders to restore production and mitigate associated risks,” said Victor Okronkwo, Managing Director of Aiteo Eastern E&P.

The exact cause of the leak remains unknown. Aiteo emphasized that the shutdown was a precautionary step to contain the spill and minimize environmental harm.

The company has notified its joint venture partners and relevant regulatory bodies, including the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), about the incident.

This development comes as a setback for Nigeria, which holds Africa’s largest natural gas reserves and is a major oil producer.

The country’s oil sector has faced numerous challenges, including aging infrastructure, theft, and environmental issues, which have hindered its ability to maximize production and exports.

The Nembe Creek shutdown also highlights ongoing concerns about the safety and reliability of Nigeria’s oil infrastructure. The NCTL has been a frequent target of oil theft and sabotage, exacerbating the challenges of maintaining a steady oil output.

Energy analysts believe that the latest incident could impact Nigeria’s ability to meet its export commitments and exacerbate the country’s economic challenges.

The Nigerian government, under President Bola Tinubu, has been making efforts to attract investment into the energy sector to boost production and address infrastructure deficits.

“The government will hope this offers confidence not only in the quality of the Nigerian resource base, but also in the government’s pledge to improve ease of doing business,” said Clementine Wallop, director of sub-Saharan Africa at political risk consultancy Horizon Engage.

As Nigeria works to address the immediate spill and restore production, the broader implications for the country’s oil sector and its environmental impact remain to be seen.

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Brent Crude Nears Seven-Week Highs as Market Eyes US Inventory Report

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Brent oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, remained steady on Thursday, hovering just below seven-week highs as the escalating conflict in the Middle East raised concerns over potential supply disruptions.

At the same time, the market eagerly awaits U.S. inventory data for further indications of demand trends.

August Brent crude rose 28 cents, or 0.3%, to $85.35 a barrel while the U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil gained 13 cents, or 0.2%, to $81.70 a barrel.

“There was no WTI settlement on Wednesday due to a U.S. public holiday, which kept trading subdued,” noted Ricardo Evangelista, an analyst at ActivTrades.

“However, oil prices are likely to remain supported around current levels due to a growing geopolitical risk premium driven by conflict in the Middle East.”

Israeli forces have intensified their operations in the Gaza Strip, targeting areas in the central region overnight while tanks advanced into Rafah in the south.

The escalating violence has heightened fears of a broader conflict that could impact oil supplies from the region.

“Expectations of an inventory build appear to be overshadowing fears of escalating geopolitical stress for now,” said Priyanka Sachdeva, senior market analyst at Phillip Nova.

Investors are keenly awaiting the release of U.S. inventory data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) later on Thursday, delayed by a day due to the Juneteenth holiday.

An industry report released on Tuesday by the American Petroleum Institute (API) indicated that U.S. crude stocks rose by 2.264 million barrels in the week ending June 14, while gasoline inventories fell, according to market sources.

The summer season typically sees an uptick in oil demand due to increased refinery runs and weather-related risks.

“Ongoing production cuts by the OPEC+ group, combined with seasonal demand, should tighten oil balances and lead to inventory draws during the summer months,” J.P. Morgan commodities analysts wrote.

Refining margins have also improved, with the ICE gasoil futures premium to Brent crude jumping to $20.63 a barrel on Wednesday, a two-month high.

“Firmer fuel refining margins provide a healthy dose of encouragement for those expecting improvements on the demand side,” commented Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM.

In other economic news, the Bank of England’s decision to keep its main interest rate unchanged at a 16-year high of 5.25% ahead of the national election on July 4 has been noted by market observers.

Higher interest rates generally increase the cost of borrowing, which can slow economic activity and dampen oil demand.

As the market braces for the upcoming EIA inventory report, analysts and traders are closely watching for any signals that could influence oil prices in the near term.

The delicate balance between geopolitical tensions and supply-demand fundamentals continues to play a critical role in shaping the oil market landscape.

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