By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja, July 6, 2022
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, granted an application filed by Sen. Rochas Okorocha, seeking an order granting him leave to travel to the U.S. for medical treatment.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, while granting the order after Okorocha’s counsel, Ola Olanipekun, SAN, moved the motion to the effect, however warned the lawmaker against failure to appear in the next adjourned date.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okorocha, who represents Imo West Senatorial District, had, on Thursday, approached the court with the motion.
Okorocha had, through his lawyer, Daniel Alumun, made this known when the matter came up before Justice Ekwo.
Alumun, however, informed the court, shortly when the case was called, that he was unable to serve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the complainant/respondent, with the motion.
Justice Ekwo consequently adjourned the matter until today for hearing of the motion.
Upon resumed hearing, Okorocha’s counsel, Olanipekun, told the court that he had a motion on notice marked: FHC /ABJ/CS/28/2022 dated June 22 and filed June 27.
The lawyer said the motion sought for an order granting the applicant (Okorocha) leave to travel outside Nigeria for medical treatment; and return before Nov. 7, being the next adjourned date for his trial.
But the EFCC’s lawyer, Chile Okoroma, who is Director of Legal Services for the agency, opposed the request.
He explained how the applicant flouted the earlier administrative bail granted him by the anti-corruption agency.
He said it took the agency about six months after the matter was filed to bring the applicant before the court.
Okoroma, who said Okorocha is a flight-risk, said if allowed to travel abroad, the lawmaker would jump bail.
The judge, however, said that since Okorocha had appeared in court, arraigned and the trial commenced, everyone should look forward to the future development.
“I am going to grant this application. But if I grant this application and the defendant fails to appear in the next adjourned date, I will make an order declaring him wanted,” the judge said.
Okoroma, who said he was satisfied with Justice Ekwo’s intervention, withdrew all his initial grounds for opposing the application.
Ruling, Justice Ekwo said that he was of the opinion that the application be granted because it was on medical grounds.
He held that this would afford the applicant the opportunity to stand his trial
“Upon perusing the prayers sought by the applicant and the averments in the counter affidavit of the respondent, I am of the opinion that this application be granted because it is of medical grounds.
“Prayers 1, 2, 3 and 4 are hereby granted as prayed,” he said.
He ordered Okorocha to return his travel documents to the court registry not later than three days upon his return.
“There shall be consequency if the 1st defendant (Okorocha) fails to appear in the next adjotrned date,” Ekwo ruled.
The judge adjourned the matter until Nov. 7, Nov. 8, Nov. 9, Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 for trial continuation.
NAN reports that the lawmaker also sought a consequential order for the release of his Nigerian international travel passport booklet, which was deposited with the court registrar in partial fulfillment of the conditions for bail granted to him.
He further sought for “a consequential order that reliefs(1} and (2) above be communicated by the registrar of this honourable court to the Nigerian Immigration Service, to facilitate the passage of the applicant.
“An order directing the 1st defendant/applicant to return his international passport to the registrar of the honourable court upon his return to Nigeria.”
The lawmaker, who gave three grounds why the reliefs sought should be granted, said he was admitted to bail pending trial in charge number: FHC/ABJ/28/2022.
He said he has duly complied with all the terms of the bail including depositing his travel documents with the registrar of the court.
He said prior to his arraignment, he underwent surgery at the Ambulatory Surgery Centre, Texas, U.S. for distal femur fracture, which he sustained in an accident.”
According to Okorocha, he has been on regular/scheduled care and treatment at the same Ambulatory Surgery Centre, where he has been scheduled for further medical tests, observation and treatment on July 19, 2022 or immediately thereafter.
He was alleged to have laundered the funds while serving as governor of Imo.
Others arraigned are Anyim Chinenye, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited as 2nd to 7th defendants respectively.