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The court clears Okorocha of the EFCC’s N2.9 billion corruption accusations

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Senator Rochas Okorocha has been cleared of corruption allegations made by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court.

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This is the third time Okorocha has been released by a court for alleged fraud and corruption committed when he was governor of Imo State between 2011 and 2019.

Justice Halilu released the former governor on Friday after dismissing the anti-graft agency’s claims as a misuse of judicial processes.

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The court ruled that the EFCC was inappropriate to continue filing similar accusations against a defendant in numerous courts, especially when a court of competent jurisdiction had already ruled on the case.

JANESCOPE remembers that in a 2021 decision, Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt vacated the EFCC allegation against Okorocha after declaring the investigation upon which the accusation was founded to be illegitimate, unlawful, null and invalid.

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The judge then barred the EFCC from prosecuting the former governor for any suspected offense related to the inquiry.

On May 24, 2022, however, the commission apprehended Okorocha following a six-hour siege at his Abuja house and arraigned him and six others before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

They were accused of stealing N2.9 billion from the Imo State government’s coffers.

However, in a judgement issued on February 6, Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the charges for violating Section 105 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, which allows the Attorney-General of the Federation the authority to recall a case.

Justice Ekwo ruled that the AGF’s direction to the EFCC in a letter dated September 12, 2022, to transmit the case file with its comments on the matters for assessment and review was legally obligatory.

The court agreed with Okorocha that an earlier judgment of a court of coordinating jurisdiction sitting in Port Harcourt in suit number FHC/PH/FHR/165 between him and the EFCC prohibiting the agency from further proceeding on the alleged offence is still in effect.

Dissatisfied, the commission went to the FCT High Court and filed new allegations against the former governor.

In an application, Okorocha, through his counsel, Chief Ola Olanipekun, SAN, contested the charge’s competency, stating it was an abuse of judicial processes.

On Friday, Justice Halilu ruled in the application that it was improper for the EFCC to bring a suit that had already been decided by a court of coordinate jurisdiction, especially since there was an order of court prohibiting the anti-graft agency from prosecuting Okorocha over the outcome of an investigation that had been nullified by the court.

The judge stated that the commission’s action of filing the same litigation in three distinct courts is nothing more than judicial abuse.

While noting that the agency is given broad investigative and prosecuting powers by law, Justice Halilu emphasized that the commission must learn to function within the law, adding that the EFCC, as a creation of the law, must respect the law.

The court noted that the evidence before it showed that Okorocha was cleared of fraud and corruption allegations made against him by the EFCC by a Federal High Court in 2021.

He pointed out that, while the commission did the right thing by appealing the decision, it should not have gone to another court of coordinate jurisdiction to file a similar complaint against Okorocha.

While stressing that no one or no agency is above the law, the court directed the anti-graft agency to realize that litigation must come to an end.

“Once a case of abuse of court processes has been established, the best thing to do is dismiss the charge; the first defendant is hereby discharged,” the court ruled.

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