- 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.”
Brent Crude Oil Approaches $70 Per Barrel on Friday
Nigerian Oil Approaches $70 Per Barrel Following OPEC+ Production Cuts Extension
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose to $69 on Friday at 3:55 pm Nigerian time.
Oil price jumped after OPEC and allies, known as OPEC plus, agreed to role-over crude oil production cuts to further reduce global oil supplies and artificially sustain oil price in a move experts said could stoke inflationary pressure.
Brent crude oil rose from $63.86 per barrel on Wednesday to $69 per barrel on Friday as energy investors became more optimistic about the oil outlook.
While certain experts are worried that U.S crude oil production will eventually hurt OPEC strategy once the economy fully opens, few experts are saying production in the world’s largest economy won’t hit pre-pandemic highs.
According to Vicki Hollub, the CEO of Occidental, U.S oil production may not return to pre-pandemic levels given a shift in corporates’ value.
“I do believe that most companies have committed to value growth, rather than production growth,” she said during a CNBC Evolve conversation with Brian Sullivan. “And so I do believe that that’s going to be part of the reason that oil production in the United States does not get back to 13 million barrels a day.”
Hollub believes corporate organisations will focus on optimizing present operations and facilities, rather than seeking growth at all costs. She, however, noted that oil prices rebounded faster than expected, largely due to China, India and United States’ growing consumption.
“The recovery looks more V-shaped than we had originally thought it would be,” she said. Occidental previous projection had oil production recovering to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of 2022. The CEO Now believes demand will return by the end of this year or the first few months of 2022.
“I do believe we’re headed for a much healthier supply and demand environment” she said.
Oil Jumps to $67.70 as OPEC+ Extends Production Cuts
Oil Jumps to $67.70 as OPEC+ Extends Production Cuts
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose to $67.70 per barrel on Thursday following the decision of OPEC and allies, known as OPEC+, to extend production cuts.
OPEC and allies are presently debating whether to restore as much as 1.5 million barrels per day of crude oil in April, according to people with the knowledge of the meeting.
Experts have said OPEC+ continuous production cuts could increase global inflationary pressure with the rising price of could oil. However, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said “I don’t think it will overheat.”
Last year “we suffered alone, we as OPEC+” and now “it’s about being vigilant and being careful,” he said.
Saudi minister added that the additional 1 million barrel-a-day voluntary production cut the kingdom introduced in February was now open-ended. Meaning, OPEC+ will be withholding 7 million barrels a day or 7 percent of global demand from the market– even as fuel consumption recovers in many nations.
Experts have started predicting $75 a barrel by April.
“We expect oil prices to rise toward $70 to $75 a barrel during April,” said Ann-Louise Hittle, vice president of macro oils at consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “The risk is these higher prices will dampen the tentative global recovery. But the Saudi energy minister is adamant OPEC+ must watch for concrete signs of a demand rise before he moves on production.”
Gold Hits Eight-Month Low as Global Optimism Grows Amid Rising Demand for Bitcoin
Gold Struggles Ahead of Economic Recovery as Bitcoin, New Gold, Surges
Global haven asset, gold, declined to the lowest in more than eight months on Tuesday as signs of global economic recovery became glaring with rising bond yields.
The price of the precious metal declined to $1,718 per ounce during London trading on Thursday, down from $2,072 it traded in August as more investors continue to cut down on their holdings of the metal.
The previous metal usually performs poorly with rising yields on other assets like bonds, especially given the fact that gold does not provide streams of interest payments. Investors have been jumping on US bonds ahead of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, expected to stoke stronger US price growth.
“We see the rising bond yields as a sign of economic optimism, which has also prompted gold investors to sell some of their positions,” said Carsten Menke of Julius Baer.
Another analyst from Commerzbank, Carsten Fritsch, said that “gold’s reputation appears to have been tarnished considerably by the heavy losses of recent weeks, as evidenced by the ongoing outflows from gold ETFs”.
Experts at Investors King believed the growing demand for Bitcoin, now called the new gold, and other cryptocurrencies in recent months by institutional investors is hurting gold attractiveness.
In a recent report, analysts at Citigroup have started projecting mainstream acceptance for the unregulated dominant cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.
The price of Bitcoin has rallied by 60 percent to $52,000 this year alone. While Ethereum has risen by over 660 percent in 2021.
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