Alleged N2.9bn Fraud: “EFCC’s Charge Against Me Is Defective And Baseless” – Okorocha
– Rochas Okorocha
Former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, on Monday, challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to try him on the basis of a 17-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
Okorocha, who piloted affairs of Imo state from 2011 to 2019, is facing trial alongside a chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, in the state, Mr. Anyim Nyerere Chinenye and five companies, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.
EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired and diverted funds belonging to Imo state, to the tune of about N2.9billion.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants sequentially siphoned funds from the Imo State Government House account and Imo State Joint Local Government Project account, and diverted same into accounts of private firms for their personal use.
According to the prosecution, the alleged offence was committed between October 2014 and February 2016.
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as they persuaded the court to release them on bail pending the determination of the charge against them.
At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Monday, Okorocha, who is currently the Senator representing Imo West, notified the court that he has filed a preliminary objection to challenge the competence of the charge.
In the objection he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, the former governor prayed the court to quash all the allegations the EFCC levelled against him in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/28/22.
While describing the charge as “unlawful, baseless, oppressive and a gross abuse of the process of the court”, Okorocha, further applied for an order, discharging and/or acquitting him.
He contended that EFCC’s investigation that precipitated the charge against him, was the subject matter of an earlier suit that was marked: FCH/PH/FHR/165/2021.
According to him, in the suit, another court of competent jurisdiction, declared EFCC’s action against him as unlawful and issued an order that prohibited the agency from proceeding with its investigations on the subject matter.
The erstwhile governor averred that the EFCC, in disobedience to the subsisting judgement, proceeded to arrest and arraign him on money laundering allegations that bordered on issues that were already determined by another court.
He, therefore, queried the legal competence of the charge and jurisdiction of the court to entertain it.
Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the matter till November 22 to enable EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. G. K. Lotanna to file his response to the preliminary objection.