Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday refrained from granting an order restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Imo State government from confiscating properties belonging to a former Governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha.
Justice Mohammed in a short ruling held that it was not in the interest of justice to grant the request when the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter in the first place was still being contended.
The judge accordingly fixed August 24, to take the motion of the EFCC and Imo State claiming, that the case could not be heard during the court’s vacation period.
The former governor is asking the court to restrain the EFCC and Imo State from further interfering and confiscating his properties located in various parts of the country.
The order according to him was needed to preserve his properties pending the resolution of ongoing litigations over his properties.
According to the Senator, his properties have been marked in several states for confiscation, saying that unless the preservative order was issued against EFCC and Imo State, he would be prejudiced.
His motion on notice for the sought court order was filed by his counsel and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Oba Maduabuchi.
But the EFCC and Imo State government opposed the request on the grounds that the court has no jurisdiction to hear Okorocha’s suit on the grounds that it was not the type that can be heard during court vacation.
The respondents further argued that Okorocha did not meet the condition precedent for the matter to be heard during vacation, adding that the Fiat of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court ought to be sought and obtained before such matter can be heard during vacation.
EFCC and Imo State cited Order 46 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedures Rule 2019 allegedly breached by Okorocha while filing the fresh motion.
It will be recalled that Justice Fred Njemanze of a State High Court in Owerri had on Monday ordered the final and absolute forfeiture of Royal Palm Springs Hotel and other properties said to belong to Senator Rochas Okorocha and members of his family.
Justice Njemanze who granted the order while ruling in an application by the government for forfeiture of the said assets held that Okorocha’s counsel failed to give concrete and verifiable reasons why a final and absolute forfeiture order should not be given in favour of the applicant.
The forfeited properties were listed in the Imo State Government White Paper Report by a Judicial Commission of Enquiry on Recovery of Lands and other related matters.
The court in the ruling stated that the suit filed against the Imo State Government by Okorocha’s counsel was not properly filed.
Justice Njemanze maintained that the white paper gazette by the Imo state Government is a legal binding document.
The judge concluded that there was no concrete reason before it why the forfeiture should not be made absolute and final, hence the Imo State Government can go ahead and do whatever it deems fit to do with the properties.
As for persons who might have made purchase on such properties, Justice Njemanze said they are at liberty to approach the court to prove their titles.
However, the properties as at today have been returned to the Imo State Government.
Justice Fred Njemanze had on February 26 given an interim order of forfeiture on the properties urging Senator Rochas Okorocha to approach the court to show cause as to why a final and absolute order of forfeiture should not be given over the properties following an application brought by Mr. Louis Alozie, SAN, on behalf of the state government.
This prompted Okorocha’s counsel to file a preliminary injunction to stop the final forfeiture, citing forceful eviction and that the suit by the Imo State Government was not properly Instituted.
Some of the properties forfeited include: Eastern Palm University, Ogboko; Royal Spring Palm Hotels and Apartments; IBC staff quarters said to have been illegally acquired for the purpose of Rochas Foundation College; Owerri magistrate quarters, Orlu road/cooperative office/Girls Guide allegedly converted to private use housing market square and Kilimanjaro eatery.
Others are; Public building situated at plot B/2 Otamiri South Extension Layout given to the Ministry of Women Affairs for establishing a skills acquisition centre for women, allegedly acquired for the benefit of Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha’s All-In Mall along Aba road, Plot P5, Naze residential layout, initially part of primary school management board but now annexed to All-In Mall along Aba Road, belonging to Mrs Nkechi Okorocha and all the properties contained from pages 226 to 272 of the government white paper on the recommendation of the judicial commission of inquiry into land administration in Imo State from June 2006 to May 2019.”
Source: This Day Live