ROCHAS Okorocha, incumbent senator representing Imo North and former governor of Imo State, was arrested by the police on Sunday for allegedly trying to unseal Royal Spring Palm Hotel in Owerri, the state capital. The ICIR takes a look at the issues surrounding his arrest and release.
In a viral video that surfaced online Sunday, the two-term governor was seen being led into a police van at his wife’s hotel in Owerri. The sealed property, Royal Spring Palm Estate, is said to be owned by Okorocha’s wife.
Okorocha was said to have breached the government’s directive by “forcefully breaking into the property alongside some thugs.”
After the former governor was taken to Imo State Police Command, he was eventually released but could be charged to court over breach of government directive.
Confirming the arrest, Orlando Ikeokwu, police public relations officer, said the command received a distress call from residents of the community.
“We discovered that Senator Okorocha allegedly led some people to the place sealed by the state government. This generated unrest and some youths from Owerri stormed the place,” Ikeokwu said.
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“Right now, he is in our custody and the commissioner of police has directed a full-scale investigation into the incident.
“If found culpable, he would be prosecuted according to the provision of the law,” he said.
Okorocha, while addressing his supporters at the Imo State Police headquarters, Owerri, said he was released after the Presidency intervened in the matter.
“They kept me there (police headquarters) and about 11:30 pm they asked me to go. I want to thank the Presidency for intervening in the matter. Governor Hope Uzodinma should not take my peaceful disposition for granted.
“He should remember that he will not be remembered by how many people he fought, but by how many projects he built.”
Enyinnaya Onuegbu, Imo State commissioner for lands, had sealed the Royal Spring Palm Estate in compliance with a government directive on the recovery of public property and land.
Okorocha, Alleged Corruption
A probe panel set up by the short-term governor of the state, Emeka Ihedioha, to investigate the treasury of Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) had indicted Okorocha of spending the state’s money on vehicles and campaigns.
This is contained in the report of the panel chaired by Romanus Ezeogu which disclosed that the senator also used ISOPADEC’s fund for campaign activities. The report also alleged that the senator diverted over 311 billion naira allocated to ISOPADEC from the bailout fund, Paris Club refund, local governments’ joint labour salary/pension, and Secondary Education Management Board Account, among others.
Two other commissioners who served under Okorocha, now members of the House of Representatives, Chike Okafor and Paschal Obi, were also indicted for misappropriation of the ISOPADEC’s fund.
It could also be recalled that the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had said it was investigating Okorocha after the end of his tenure as governor of the state.
Some Imo citizens accuse Okorocha of forcefully taking over private property without compensation and converting public property to personal use.
Former commissioner for information and strategy under Emeka Ihedioha, Declan Emelumba, had accused Okorocha of forcefully taking over people’s property, stressing that many of his victims would like him thrown into jail.