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Court discharges Okorocha of alleged N2.9bn corruption charges, slams EFCC

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Friday, discharged Sen. Rochas Okorocha from corruption charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ((EFCC).

 

Justice Yusuf Halilu freed the former Imo governor after dismissing the charges filed by the anti-graft agency for being an abuse of court process.

 

The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reports that this is the third time Okorocha has been freed by courts in respect of alleged fraud and corruption said “to have been committed while he was the governor of the state from 2011 to 2019.’’

 

Justice Halilu held that it was wrong for the EFCC to continue to file similar charges against a defendant in different courts when a court of competent jurisdiction had already given a verdict on the matter.

 

NAN reports that Justice Stephen Pam, of a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, had in a judgment in 2021, dismissed the EFCC’s charge against Okorocha.

 

He declared the investigation upon which the charge was based on as illegal, unlawful, null and void.

 

The judge then made an order prohibiting the EFCC from further prosecuting the former governor over any alleged offence relating to the said investigation.

 

The commission, however, on May 24, 2022 laid siege on Okorocha’s residence in Abuja, arrested him and subsequently arraigned him and six others.

 

They were alleged to have embezzled the sum of N2.9 billion belonging to the government of Imo.

 

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling delivered on Feb. 6, struck out the charge for contravening Section 105 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.

 

The court agreed with Okorocha that an earlier judgment of a court of coordinate jurisdiction sitting in Port Harcourt in suit number: FHC/PH/FHR/165, between him and EFCC.

 

It restrained the agency from further hearing the alleged offence subsisted.

 

Dissatisfied, the commission approached a High Court of the FCT, and filed another set of charges against the former governor.

 

But Okorocha through his lawyer Mr Ola Olanipekun, SAN, in an application challenged the competence of the charge, claiming it was an abuse of court process.

 

Delivering ruling in the application on Friday, Justice Halilu, held that it was wrong for the EFCC to bring a suit which had already been decided by a court of coordinate jurisdiction.

 

The judge said this was especially so as there was an order of court restraining the anti-graft agency from prosecuting Okorocha over the outcome of an investigation which had been nullified by the court.

 

The judge said that there was nothing more that described an abuse of court than the action of the commission by going ahead to file the same suit in three different courts.

 

He said that although by law, the EFCC was conferred with a wide range of investigatory and prosecutorial powers; it must learn to operate within the ambit of the law.

 

The judge added that the EFCC being a creation of law, must be a respecter of the same law.

 

The judge said that nobody or agency was above the law and advised the EFCC to accept that there must be an end to litigation.

 

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