BusinessLegal/Judiciary

Fundamental rights: Former DPR director dragged to court

A former director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Anthony Chukwueke, who is now the Chairman, Board of Directors of Germaine Auto Centre Company has been dragged before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria.

He was dragged before the court by a businesswoman, Ms Maryann Chukwueke in a bid to safeguard her fundamental rights.

Joined as co-respondents are a Limited Liability Company, Germaine Auto Centre Limited, the Company Secretary of the firm, Martha Etemu, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Deputy Commissioner of Police State Criminal Investigation Department, Yaba, Lagos, and Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP Oketunji Lawrence Bola.

In an affidavit sworn to by Maryann Chukwueke, it was averred that she is a founding member of Germaine Auto Centre Company and has over the years contributed to the development of the company.

It is recalled that Germaine Auto Centre is a family business owned by her and other siblings, and Anthony Chukwueke is a member of the family who was working in the Department of Petroleum Resources when the company was set up, but allegedly used his status and accumulated wealth to muscle her and some other siblings out from the management of the firm.

This, according to court documents propelled the complainant to establish her firm known as Admiralty Motors Limited in 2002.

But sometimes in 2019, Anthony Chukwueke approached the complainant to assist with the management of Germaine Auto Centre, and that after much plea from him alongside other members of the family including her mother, she accepted to assist the company.

However, sometimes in April 2021, Maryann claimed that Anthony Chukwueke was representing her company, Admiralty Motors Ltd as his own and that he had gone forward to do the evaluation of her firm in the name of Germaine Auto Centre Limited.

The complainant equally alleged that Anthony had caused a solar panel to be installed on her company’s property located at Shapata, Ibeju Lekki, Lagos State without informing or seeking her consent.

The activities of Germaine Auto Company vide the instrumentality of Anthony Chukwueke, according to Maryann had also caused her to believe that the company, Anthony Chukwueke, and Martha Etemu are making efforts to unlawfully claim her firm and its assets.

Upon realization that the respondents are allegedly trying to claim her company and its assets, Maryann revealed that she had no choice than to lock up the premises to prevent trespass on the property.

The businesswoman thereafter claimed that the respondents mobilized thugs, hoodlums in the company of some of Germaine Auto Centre staff to forcefully invade Admiralty Motor premises, but when they were unable to gain entrance to the premises, they sought for the assistance of the Nigeria Police in Elemoro, wherein criminal allegations were made against her.

She was consequently invited by the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, and on September 23, 2021, honored the invitation and was interviewed by the DPO.

Upon discovery that there was no evidence to substantiate their allegations against her, the DPO was said to have in the circumstances let the businesswoman go.

However, Maryann had since then been allegedly receiving several threatening and disturbing phone calls from Anthony Chukwueke, Martha Etemu and their agents including from several police officers.

Specifically on September 26, 2021, Anthony was said to have sent a letter purporting to have suspended her indefinitely.

The respondents have also allegedly approached the police at the Criminal Investigation Department, Yaba Lagos, to harass and threaten her.

In claiming exemplary and aggravated damages to the tune of N80m jointly and severally against the respondents, Maryann is urging the court to restrain the police and its officers from inviting, arresting, detaining or harassing her over a purely civil or commercial transaction between her and two of respondents, Anthony Chukwueke and Martha Etemu.

The applicant is also urging the court to restrain the respondents from interfering with the property belonging to her, and N5m as the cost of this legal action.

Meanwhile, in a counter affidavit sworn to by Martha Etemu, Human Resources and Administration of Germaine Auto Centre, for herself and on behalf of Germaine Auto Centre and Anthony Chukwueke, denied almost all the averments of the complainant, stating that Maryann does not hold shares in Germaine Auto Centre in her personal capacity, but only does collectively and jointly by virtue of her membership of the Nwawuba-Chukwueke family.

It was revealed that Nwawuba-Chukwueke family is a major shareholder in the company and allocation of shares has been put off until Germaine Auto Centre satisfied its indebtedness in full and reverts in entirety to the Nwawuba-Chukwueke.

She further stated that Germaine Auto Centre was founded in 1998 by certain Chief Jerry Chukwueke, brother to both the applicants, Anthony Chukwueke and Martha Etemu.

The applicant was an Executive Director and staff (VP Sales) with Germaine Auto Centre until her recent suspension for the reason of her invasion of one of the company’s facilities that is the Admiralty Motors Ltd property located at Shapata, Lagos.

The deponent stated that Anthony Chukwueke served the Federal Government of Nigeria for many years in various capacities including but not limited to the DPR.

Further, the deponent argued that at the time of the applicant’s exit from Germaine Auto Centre in 2002, Anthony Chukwueke was Manager at Shell Petroleum Development Company, with no direct involvement in the management or day to day running of Germaine Auto Centre which was at that time chaired and managed by Chief Jerry Chukwueke.

The deponent equally argued that Admiralty Motors Ltd is not solely owned by Maryann but owned by members of Nwawuba-Chukwueke collectively and jointly.

The deponent insisted that following the applicant’s exit from Germaine Auto Centre in 2002, the Nwawuba-Chukwueke family members incorporated Admiralty Motors Ltd with the aim of providing an alternative employment for family members who could not remain in Germaine Auto Centre for one reason or the other.

The said incorporation, according to Etemu was backed by and funded by Anthony Chukwueke, adding that the applicant only assumed the position of Director, and that in no way made her the owner of Admiralty Motors Ltd.

As a result, the respondents have maintained that their interest shall be prejudiced if the application of the applicant is granted.

Meanwhile, based on an application filed and argued by a Lagos lawyer, O.I Ogunseitan on behalf of Maryann Chukwueke, the presiding Judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke issued an order for the maintenance of status quo pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion.

The case has been adjourned till February 2, 2022, for hearing.

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