Auto Policy: How Customs Trapped Innoson Group In N1Billion Deal

Auto Policy: How Customs Trapped Innoson Group In N1Billion Deal
President Jonathan rides in the first Made-in-Nigeria Nissan SUV by Innocent Group

·         Govt. sets up another port reforms committee

·         How Peter Obi saved the day

Facts have emerged how the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Federal Ministry of Finance would have ruined the prospects of Innocent Group’s Car production in Nigeria.

Dr. Innocent Chukwuma, the Chairman of Innoson Group is one of the few investors who took advantage of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s new vigour introduced to the automobile industry in Nigeria.

The company last year made history by becoming the first indigenous car manufacturer in the country with the official unveiling of 500 made-in- Nigeria cars built at its Nnewi, Anambra state, plant. However, the former governor of Anambra state, Sir Peter Obi has revealed that the company would have gone under but for his intervention.

According to Obi, the company imported some goods into the country about a year ago and in the process of clearing the company was asked to pay 35% duty on the imported goods, on his refusal, the goods were sold on auction and the chairman became indebted to GT Bank to about N1billion naira.

He stated that he was at the Enugu Airport when he overheard some people saying that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had declared Innocent wanted and on further enquires, he was made to understand what happened.

Sir Obi who spoke both in English and Igbo languages added that he went to see the Innoson Group chairman at home and took the matter to the president who summoned the comptroller General of the Customs (CGC), Dr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde and the Coordinating Minister of the Federation and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to refund his money.

In Obi’s words, “some of you know the problem of Innoson with Nigeria Customs Service, Innoson borrowed money from the bank, he imported goods and he had problems in the process of clearing his goods concerning whether to pay 35% charge or not to pay.

“If anybody knows what has been happening over one year or six months now, his goods were sold auction and Innoson became a debtor to GT Bank for over N1billion. I was in Enugu airport travelling from Enugu and I overheard people talking that EFCC declared Innoson wanted so, I called one of them to tell me the story and he told me all that Innoson was going through, I asked my people who were following me to Abuja to accompany me to Innoson factory.”

“I went to Mr. President and said Mr. President, I travel everywhere with you looking for foreign investment and I want to tell you about a local investment; if the local ones are doing well then you can’t get the foreign ones, so, I told him and when we finished, he invited Ngozi, he invited the Comptroller General of Customs and the President told Ngozi and the Comptroller General of Customs that am giving you two weeks to pay Innoson N1billion.

“And that is how this present administration of customs paid him N800million and I said they will pay the balance and they put it in writing and I am sure they have finished paying him now”, he stated.

Sir Obi, the coordinator of All Southern States of the Jonathan Campaign organization who also represented the President said this while addressing Igbo Maritime Practitioners in Lagos, last week.

Earlier, he said the president had inaugurated a committee that would look into why the port is not efficient as it should be despite the president’s effort to make the port efficient.

The committee which is to commence operations after the elections is chaired by Sir Peter Obi himself while other members include the coordinating Minister of the economy, Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, Comptroller General of Customs and major players in the industry including Manufactures’ Association of Nigeria (MAN).

The forum was organized to canvas supports for Jonathan’s re-election among the Igbos in the freight forwarding industry in Lagos.

At the meeting, he promised that every discussion will be relayed to the president so that if he is re-elected, he will attend to them.

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