From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Group, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, who was arrested and detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday got a heroic welcome Thursday by members of his staff and kinsmen from Nnewi at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport as he returned.
EFCC officials from Lagos had invaded the Enugu residence of Chukwuma on Tuesday morning, arrested and detained him at their Enugu office before whisking him away to Lagos on Wednesday where they later released him on bail.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Chukwuma was arrested following “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.”
But the industrialist and auto manufacturer told newsmen at the airport that he was not guilty of any of the allegations leveled by the EFCC.
“I still maintain that my arrest was illegal, as there was never a period that EFCC under the leadership of Ibrahim Magu invited me for any reason. In due time, I will tell Nigerians the whole truth about this matter. I intend to work faithfully with the EFCC on this alleged investigation so as to clear my name which has been badly damaged, and I will follow up this so-called investigation to its logical conclusion,” he assured.
Narrating how the operatives of the EFCC arrested him, he said: “First of all, I want to thank all Nigerians who stood by me, because GTBank wrote a false petition against me. The EFCC came to my house, jumped over the fence of my compound and whisked me away, but all Nigerians refused to accept this.
“So, I am thanking everybody who fought in this matter because I was surprised when the EFCC jumped into my compound very early in the morning. When I saw them, I thought they were kidnappers or armed robbers, only to notice that they were actually from the EFCC.
“Immediately I saw them around 5:30a.m, I hid for over two hours until when the weather became a little bit clearer around 7:30am, when I was able to see that they were putting on police uniform. Suddenly, I began to hear gunshots and that was when I realized that many policemen had come into my compound, and that was when I came out of my hideout.
“When I came out, they said they wanted to arrest me and that they are from the EFCC. I followed them to their office in Enugu, but up till now, they have not told me my offence.”
The Innoson boss who was later flown to Lagos said that on arrival at the EFCC Lagos office, the operatives asked him to go without telling him what his offence was.
“They arrested me like a criminal, I was putting on the pajamas I woke up in and was taken to the airport on shorts and singlet, from there to Lagos, I am just returning from Lagos now,” he said.
He insisted that he was never invited by the EFCC, saying “nobody invited me, nobody got me informed prior to my arrest. If they had invited me or written any letter to me, I would have honoured the invitation because I am a genuine businessman and industrialist. I don’t have anything in my cupboard to hide. And that is why I insisted they should tell me what I did, but till now I haven’t been told my offence.”
Chukwuma disclosed that when he was released at the EFCC Lagos office, he refused to leave the office until he was told his offence, adding that “they had to beg me before I left.”
He said that he would make sure that the commission explains why they got him arrested, saying that “I have never in my life owed any tax, I pay all my taxes and all my duties. I am a genuine businessman and industrialist, I have a history in my business.”
He also thanked President Muhammadu Buhari, members of the National Assembly, traditional rulers from across the country and other Nigerians for their support in kicking against his illegal arrest, which he pointed out contributed to his release.
Some of his workers and kinsmen who spoke to Sunnewsonline.com at the airport said that they came to show solidarity to their boss and brother over his ordeal in the hands of the EFCC.
The workers described him as genuine businessman who has helped the government to reduce unemployment in the country, saying that his arrest was a wicked act.