The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday (EFCC) found Rochas Okorocha not guilty of the N2.9 billion fraud charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In a ruling, Inyang Ekwo disregarded the charges of violating section 105(3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, which grants the Attorney-General of the Federation the authority to recall a case.
Mr. Okorocha’s preliminary application was the basis for the decision. At the time the judge declared the case closed on Monday, the EFCC had not yet begun calling witnesses.
According to Mr. Ekwo, the EFCC was obligated to send the case file and its comments on the issues to the AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, for consideration and review in a letter dated September 12, 2022.
“When directed by the HAGF (Honorable Attorney General of the Federation), pursuant to any enactment, the respondent (EFCC) was required to comply and not act as if it is not under the law or is exempted thereby,” according to the law.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the HAGF’s office is preserved because it is based on the constitution’s provisions.
He stated, “It is time to stop the controversies and drama surrounding this trial proceeding because they are unnecessary.”
The judge also said that the EFCC no longer had the legal authority to prosecute or continue the case from the moment the AGF gave the directive to the EFCC.
Unless otherwise instructed by the HAGF, the prosecuting agency’s authority in any criminal proceeding is terminated when the HAGF intervenes.
“In the end, I conclude that the respondent’s failure to comply with the HAGF’s directive, as stated in Exhibit Okorocha 7, is fatal to this proceeding and has rendered it null and void.”
“After the HAGF issued the directive in Exhibit Okorocha 7, the respondent is not authorized by any law to continue this proceeding,” reads the directive.
He went on to say, “With Exhibit Okorocha 7, only the HAGF can decide whether or not to charge the defendants upon the case file being remitted to his office as directed.”
In addition, Mr. Ekwo concurred with the defendants that the earlier judgment of a Port Harcourt-based court of coordinate jurisdiction in suit number: The agreement between Mr. Okorocha and the EFCC, FHC/PH/FHR/165, preventing the agency from proceeding further regarding the alleged offense had not been overturned.
“Violation of existing court order”: He claims that the order remains in effect until it is overturned.
“The law does not change because of a person’s refusal to comply with it, nor does the law change to accommodate the act of non-compliance by any person.
“The law turns its back on the person when a person chooses not to comply with the law.”
“When that occurs, the court will set aside the such act of non-compliance ex debito justitiae, and every action or decision taken by such person in the process of non-compliance becomes illegal.
He stated, “This is so because there is no machination that can salvage an illegal act.”
The charge was thrown out after the judge ruled that Mr. Okorocha’s and the fifth defendant’s (Consolid Projects Consulting Ltd.) objections were valid.
“Therefore, I issue an order to dismiss the charge that found this proceeding.” The defendants are discharged as a result,” Ekwo stated.
Background According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the EFCC said it received an intelligence report about Mr. Okorocha’s criminal diversion, office abuse, and money laundering while he was running the Imo State government from 2011 to 2019.
The intelligence had been looked into and found to be accurate, according to the commission.
The anti-corruption agency then brought a 17-count charge with the following marking: In opposition to Okorocha and others, FHC/ABJ/CR/28/22.
Anyim Nyerere Chinenye, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited were arraigned alongside Mr. Okorocha, who is the first defendant.
While he was governor of Imo, he was accused of laundering N2.9 billion in funds.
However, on May 31, 2022, Mr. Ekwo granted Mr. Okorocha bail in the amount of N500 million with one surety in the same amount.
Chinenye, a co-defendant of Mr. Okorocha, was also granted bail by the judge in accordance with the administrative bail that the EFCC had previously granted to him.
Contesting the validity of the trial, however, Mr. Okorocha, who currently represents the Imo West Senatorial District, had filed a preliminary objection along with the fifth defendant, requesting an order quashing the charges that were proposed against him.
The suit, according to the senator, was “unlawful, baseless, oppressive, and a gross abuse of the court’s process.”
He stated that the investigation “was the subject matter of suit number, on which the said charge was predicated: FCH/PH/FHR/165/2021, in which the Honorable In the court’s final judgment on the applicant’s lawsuit, Coram Pam, J. declared illegal and issued an order prohibiting the EFCC from proceeding any further.”
However, the EFCC stated in its counter affidavit, which was filed on November 18, 2021, that it had read Mr. Okorocha’s motion from October 28 and found that “the depositions therein are grossly misleading and untrue particularly paragraphs 3 and 4.”
The anti-corruption organization pleaded with the court to reject the application because it lacked merit.