Senator Rochas Okorocha was cleared of all corruption accusations brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
After being accused of fraud and corruption while serving as governor of Imo State from 2011 to 2019, Okorocha has now been acquitted of all charges three times.
On Friday, Justice Halilu dismissed the anti-graft agency’s claims against the ex-governor as an abuse of judicial proceedings and exonerated him from the charge.
The court found it improper for the EFCC to file duplicate charges against the defendant in multiple courts, especially after a court of competent jurisdiction had previously ruled on the subject.
KURYALOADED remembers that in a 2021 decision, Justice Stephen Pam of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt overturned the EFCC allegation against Okorocha by declaring the investigation upon which the accusation was founded to be illegal, unlawful, null, and void.
Following this investigation, the judge ruled that the EFCC could not pursue criminal charges against the ex-governor.
On the other hand, Okorocha was apprehended by the commission after a six-hour siege of his Abuja home on May 24, 2022, and he and six others were subsequently charged before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
They were accused of stealing N2.9 billion from the Imo State government.
However, in a judgement issued on February 6th, Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the charges for 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.
Justice Ekwo ruled that the EFCC must comply with the AGF’s September 12, 2022 letter ordering the agency to submit the case file along with its views on the concerns for review.
The court agreed with Okorocha that a previous order in suit number FHC/PH/FHR/165 between him and EFCC prohibiting the agency from further proceeding on the alleged offence still stands.
When the commission’s initial allegations against the ex-governor were dismissed, it appealed to the FCT High Court.
However, Okorocha’s attorney, Chief Ola Olanipekun, SAN, filed a motion disputing the charge’s legitimacy on his client’s behalf.
On Friday, Justice Halilu issued a ruling in the application, finding that the EFCC had no right to file suit in light of a previous ruling by a court of coordinate jurisdiction, which had previously barred the anti-graft agency from prosecuting Okorocha based on the findings of an investigation that had been overturned.
The judge ruled that the commission’s behavior amounted to court abuse because it had filed the same litigation in three distinct courts.
Justice Halilu acknowledged the agency’s extensive investigative and prosecuting authority under the law but said that the EFCC needed to learn to operate within the law because it was established by legislation and hence must uphold the rule of law.
The court took note of the fact that the EFCC’s fraud and corruption allegations against Okorocha had been dismissed by a Federal High Court in 2021.
He pointed out that the commission did the right thing by filing an appeal, but it made a mistake by going to a court with overlapping jurisdiction to press charges against Okorocha.
The court cautioned the anti-graft agency to recognize that litigation must come to an end, saying that nobody or organization is above the law.
“Once a case of abuse of court processes is established, the best thing to do is to dismiss the charge; the first defendant is hereby discharged,” the court ruled.