Court discharges ex-Imo Gov Okorocha, blasts EFCC

By Dele Anofi

AFederal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja has discharged ex-Imo Governor Senator Rochas Okorocha of all allegations of corruption filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The presiding judge, Justice Yusuf Halilu, said to have filled the charge in his court despite filling the same with a Federal High Court a case that has been dismissed earlier by a court of competent jurisdiction was a gross abuse of the judicial process by the EFCC.

While delivering judgment in the suit filed by the EFCC against the former Governor, he noted the EFCC should be seen to be a respecter of the law that created it.

Okorocha was prosecuted by the EFCC on a 17-count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing, conversion of public funds and money laundering to the tune of N3.1 billion.

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In his judgement, Justice Halilu recalled previous rulings on the same subject matter which EFCC was aware of but said the agency still decided to file the same charges against Okorocha before his court.

He recalled that Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on February 6, 2023, discharged and acquitted Okorocha of the fraud charge preferred against him by the EFCC.

According to him, the ruling of the Abuja High Court flowed from an earlier judgement of a court of coordinate jurisdiction sitting in Port Harcourt in suit number: FHC/PH/FHR/165, between him and EFCC, restraining the agency from further proceeding on the alleged offence subsists.

In the ruling, Justice Stephen Pam, of the Federal High court in Port Harcourt, had declared it unlawful and made an order prohibiting the EFCC from further prosecuting Senator Okoracha.

Noting that counsel to Okorocha, Ola Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had successfully woven together the previous court pronouncements, Justice Halilu said he cannot but agree with the complaint that the complainant (EFCC) has abused the judicial process by filling the same charges against the complaint in the FCT High court.

While he noted that the same criminal charges filled before the Federal and FCT High courts against Okorocha are being construed as an abuse of judicial process, Justice Halilu said: “An order made by a court of competent jurisdiction is valid until it is declared null a court of competent jurisdiction.

“That’s is why any step taken in filing any charge against the first defendant/applicant towards or stemmed from the same investigation which has been declared null and void and unconstitutional by a Federal High Court shall always be challenged on grounds of an abuse of court process”.

He said even though the number of charges is not the same on both charge sheets, the fact nonetheless remains that they were borne out of the same investigation that has been declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Federal High Court.

He said the EFCC must be truly seen as obeying the law, being a creation of the law since the court is needed always for the prosecution of the anti-graft agency’s cases, which the court has helped promote the image of the agency.

Okorocha, who was in court, after the session expressed appreciation to the judiciary and the outcome of the case. (Nation)

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