By Uche Mbah
The messy face-off between Innoson Motors and GTBank has taken a bizarre turn with Innoson legal team threatening to seal of GTBank office in Lagos to recover their N8.8 billion.
Last week, the, spokesperson of the group, Connell Osigwe, said as many as seven branches of the Bank have been sealed off. He named the Branches as one in Nnewi, two in Onitsha, two in Awka and two in Enugu. “We will have to move to the head office by next week”, he was quoted as having said.“We will seal more of their properties to recover our money and from next week, we shall move to GTB head office to enforce the judgment of courts. We will sell those properties to get our money back.” GTBank has protested that the case was between Innoson and the Nigerian Customs, and has nothing to do with GTBank. “The judgment allegedly in issue is in respect of Garnishee Proceedings against the account of the Nigerian Customs Service Board domiciled with the Bank and not against the Bank as an entity”, the Bank had said in a statement signed by Erhi Obebeduo. This was vehemently refuted by Innoson Group, who insisted the case was actually between them and GTBank. ”In a garnishee proceeding, once an order of garnishee nisi is made, the garnishee is required by law to set the amount involved aside and will not allow the judgment debtor to withdraw from it;” Osigwe said, “and if the order is made absolute, the garnishee pays the money to the judgment creditor and incurs no liability for doing that but if the order is not made absolute the garnishee returns the money to the judgment debtor.
“In this case, the order was made absolute since 29th July 2011 and GTB held unto the money from that time and is using for its business. It follows that by the time the order was made absolute it was no more the judgment debtor’s money but rather that of Innoson Nigeria Ltd who is the judgment creditor; if a garnishee refuses to comply with the order, then, it becomes a judgment debtor, as GTB has become in the present case, against whom execution of the order will issue. Therefore, there is no merit or force in the GTB’s press statement.”
The story started when the Nigerian Customs Service allegedly seized goods belonging to Innoson group and had them destroyed for unknown reasons .Innoson took the customs Board to court for redress.
The high court sitting in Ibadan awarded N2 billion to Innoson, which the Board has to pay through their account in GTBank. In earlier negotiations, GTBank agreed that they have withdrawn the amount from the Customs Board, and the money in their custody. Innoson had then approached the court saying that since GTBank had been doing business with his money, they should be paying him interest based on the amount the Banks charges customers who borrow from them as interest rate. But the Bank wanted the money treated as savings, in which the interest rate should be far lower.
The Ibadan High Court agreed with Innoson and awarded N2.2 billion to Innoson, with a yearly interest of 22%. The bank went on appeal and lost. They went all the way to the Supreme Court and the court held the same position as the two lower courts. Now, with interests, the total amount has risen to N8.8 billion since 2011.
This Magazine was informed that while muscle flexing continues on the media, there has been concerted efforts by the Management of GTBank to reach out to Innoson for an amicable solution. Part of the discussions, it was disclosed, is geared towards the possibility of converting the debt into equity shares, a proposal which GTBank was alleged to have initially rejected.
This was one of the two cases between Innoson and GTBank being adjudicated at the supreme Court. The second case deals with GTBank and Innoson directly.