Alleged fraud: Court dismisses EFCC’s suit against Okorocha

A HIGH Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Friday, July 14, dismissed a suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha.

The EFCC had dragged Okorocha before the court after charging him over alleged fraud committed while he served as the governor of Imo State.

In his judgment on the matter, the presiding judge Yusuf Halilu, held that a court’s order is legitimate until it is overturned.

Halilu said EFCC ought to have appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, holding that the pronouncement made by the court and that of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, remains law.

He subsequently described the suit filed by the EFCC before the court as an abuse of the court process.

Halilu based his decision on the EFCC’s filing of a similar allegation against the former governor of Imo State at the Federal High Court, after it had been settled in the former governor’s favour in two earlier judgements.

The judge subsequently dismissed the suit for being an abuse of the court process.

Okorocha contested the validity of the indictment, claiming that there were active court orders prohibiting the Commission from bringing identical charges against him.

He noted that on December 6, 2021, the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt approved an application to halt his prosecution after faulting the EFCC’s investigation process.

Okorocha said since that ruling is still in effect, the EFCC’s current accusation represents an abuse of both the legal and prosecution processes.

He further highlighted a judgment issued by the Abuja Federal High Court in February 2023 that dismissed a related lawsuit brought by the Commission.

The EFCC had argued that the new charge was distinct from the earlier lawsuits.

This is the third time separate courts have exonerated Okorocha concerning alleged fraud and corruption allegedly perpetrated while he was the governor of Imo State between 2011 and 2019.

In February 2023, a Federal High Court presided by Inyang Ekwo discharged Okorocha of N2.9 billion fraud case.






     

     

    The court, in a ruling, struck out the EFCC’s suit for being in contravention of Section 105 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, which gives the Honourable Attorney-General (HAGF) of the Federation the power to recall a case.

    Ekwo said that the directive of the AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a letter dated September 12, 2022, to the anti-graft agency to forward the case file as well as the EFCC’s comments on the issues for consideration and review was binding on the Commission.

    Also, in a 2021 ruling, a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt dismissed the EFCC’s case against Okorocha after ruling that the investigation that formed the basis of the indictment was unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void.

    The judge, Stephen Pam, ordered the EFCC not to pursue any more charges against the former governor for any suspected offence connected to the probe.

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