Justice Fred Njemanze of the Owerri High Court yesterday, ordered absolute forfeiture of royal palm springs and over 500 choice properties alleged to have been illegally acquired by former governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha.
The order involves over 500 choice properties like the KO Mbadiwe University, formerly Eastern Palm University, the Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) Orji Property, amongst others, allegedly converted to private use by Okorocha, his family members and political associates.
The former governor had approached a high court to stop the seizure of all properties listed in the report. This is along with over 120 other court cases instituted by the former governor against the Senator Hope Uzodinma administration, to stop the implementation of the panel’s report.
Okorocha is alleged to have wrongfully acquired properties during his eight-year-tenure as governor of Imo State.
Njemanze, who sat as a vacation judge, had ordered the final and absolute forfeiture of royal palm springs and other properties contained in pages 226 to 272 of the Imo State government white paper on recovery of lands and properties belonging to Imo State.
In his ruling, Justice Njemanze held that Senator Rochas failed to give concrete and verifiable reasons why a final and absolute forfeiture order should not be given in favour of Imo Sstate.
Justice Njemanze concluded that there is no reason before the court why the forfeiture should not be made absolute and final, saying every property on pages 226 to 272 of the white paper has been forfeited to the Imo State government which can do whatever it deems fit with it.
Meanwhile, the court held that those who had purchased some of the properties in contention were at liberty to approach the court to prove their titles, adding that the properties, as at today, have been returned to the Imo State government.
However, Okorocha’s lawyer, Oba Maduabuchi (SAN), told newsmen that the order would be challenged, saying the order would not stand.
According to him, the court forfeiture order was nothing but perfidy and a complete sham.
He said, “The court did not sit on Friday because they told us that the judge was indisposed and so we left. That is when we had an argument whether we were coming on Monday or not and we were told to return on Tuesday.
“The court said let us skip Monday because of the sit at home order by ESN/IPOB and we agreed to be here tomorrow. I was surprised when Barr Amagwula, one of Okorocha’s lawyers told me about the development,” Maduabuchi said.
Justice Nkemanze had, on February 26, 2021, given an interim order of forfeiture urging Senator 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, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on behalf of the state government.
It will be recalled that following the plethora of petitions over forceful collection of property leveled against Okorocha, a Judicial Panel of Enquiry on Land Use, set up by the Hon Emeka Ihedioha administration and carried on in the spirit of continuity by the Hope Uzodinma administration, had recommended the seizure of several allegedly looted properties from the former governor, his family, as well as his political associates.