By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja, July 21, 2020
Chief C.O.C. Akaolisa, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Imo State, has accused Sen. Rochas Okorocha of abuse of court process in his bid to stop the state probe panel set up to investigate alleged financial infractions during his eight-year tenure as governor.
Akaolisa told Justice Ahmed Muhammed of the Federal High Court this much at the Tuesday sitting in Abuja.
Okorocha, Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/558/2020 filed on May 28, had urged the court to restrain the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Imo panel from probing his government between 2011 and 2019.
Other defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of Imo; members of the Judicial Commission on Lands and Related Matters, members of the panel to investigate the activities of ISOPADEC; members of the panel to investigate the status of the newly established Tertiary institutions; members of the investigative committee for financial transactions in Imo; Committee for the Review of appointments, recruitments and related matters from 2015 till date and the Committee for the investigation of LGAs, etc.
At the resumed hearing on Tuesday, Okorocha’s counsel, Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, informed the court that the matter was slated for hearing of the motion on notice for an interlocutory injunction to stop the actions of the defendants.
He hinted that despite an undertaking by J.M. Mathew, counsel to 2nd to 48th defendants, the state panel had continued its sitting.
“On the July 8, Mr Matthew, who appeared for 2nd to 48th defendants, undertook solemnly on record and from the bar that his clients will cease all investigations until motion on notice for injunction is determined.
“I deeply regret to say that the next day, July 9, one of the first set of defendants sat on July 9. It also sat on July 17,” he said
Maduabuchi said he had filed an affidavit on Monday to that regard.
The lawyer said only a formal order by the court could restrain them from continuing the sitting pending the determination of the matter.
Counsel to EFCC, Ekele Iheanacho, who apologised for the commission’s non-representation in court since the start of the case, said the case file was forwarded to him the previous day.
“We pray the court for time to respond to the motion on notice,” he appealed.
Responding, Akaolisa said though Mathew, who appeared in the last adjourned date narrated what transpired in court to him, he said he had expected to respond to the issue orally only to be “confronted with an affidavit just served on us today.”
He said it was disheartening that Maduabuchi had not explained the very circumstances of the case to the court.
According to him, Maduabuchi filed a suit against the 2nd to 10th defendants at Owerri High Court in Imo, seeking to stop them from further proceeding of their investigation.
“My learned SAN (Maduabuchi) filed the same application here, seeking for an interlocutory injection to stop them (the panel) from sitting in that suit,” he explained.
Akaolisa said the Owerri court refused to grant their prayers.
“It is uncharitable that he filed this case without informing this court about the ruling that was delivered by another court.
“It is the same issue he is canvassing; one in Owerri and one here, to stop the panel from sitting.
“My lord, I urge you to take our preliminary objection first because this is an abuse of court process.
“It will be better to hear the preliminary objection before any other thing my lord,” he said.
Akaolisa told the court that some commissioners during Okorocha’s government had appeared before the panel, including the former governor’s counsel.
However, he said when the panel summoned Okorocha to appear to answer questions regarding some issues, the former governor began to run from one court to the other, seeking a restraining order.
“My lord, the plaintiff has four suits before Justice Taiwo against EFCC, ICPC, and all agencies on anti-corruption in his bid to stop them from investigating him,” Akaolisa told the court.
Justice Mohammed, who declined to give an order restraining the panel from sitting, told counsel to Imo government that the panel must not conclude the exercise until the court determines the substantive suit before it.
The judge then adjourned the matter until Aug. 5 for hearing of the preliminary objection.