By Ejike Ejike |
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arrested former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha.
Okorocha, a serving senator currently representing Imo West Constituency at the National Assembly, was picked up after a five-hour standoff with EFCC operatives.
The anti-graft agency was said to have invited him on occasions to its Abuja headquarters in connection with multiple corruption allegations against him, but that he had reportedly failed to honour the invitations, a development that forced the anti-graft operatives to trail him to his Unity House private office in Abuja yesterday.
Confirming the arrest, the head of media and publicity of the anti-graft agency, Wilson Uwujaren, said Okorocha was arrested in Abuja.
Okorocha’s run-in with the EFCC began after his tenure as Imo governor ended and the EFCC began a probe into his activities and fraud allegations.
Although, the EFCC would not say why Okorocha was arrested, LEADERSHIP recalls that recently, a federal high court in Abuja had refused an application brought by Okorocha seeking to stop the EFCC from investigating him on alleged financial violations.
The Imo State government had set up a panel to review all financial transactions of the state during the eight-year administration of Okorocha.
On May 10, 2020, a committee said it uncovered N112.8 billion “dubious debts” owed the state by nine commercial banks.
The EFCC is also carrying out its own investigation and said it will prosecute the former governor.
On May 18, 2020, Okorocha filed a suit seeking an order to stop the respondents from probing “the purported financial infractions”.
He prayed the court to “direct the 1st defendant (EFCC) and the 3rd to the 10th defendants (the Imo State attorney-general (AG) and the Justice Iheaka-led probe panel on contract awards) to stay all further actions and proceedings until the 2nd defendant (the state AG) decides who should carry out the investigation.”
According to him, it is unconstitutional for the EFCC and the panel of inquiry to investigate him at the same time on the basis of the same facts.
Ruling on the applications, the judge, Ahmed Mohammed refused Okorocha’s request for a restraining order.
The ex-governor has been at loggerheads with his successor, Hope Uzodimma, who has vowed to recover all “diverted” assets.
The Imo State government had sealed the Spring Palm Estate linked to Okorocha’s wife Nkechi and other properties it claimed had been “diverted” by Okorocha and his family members but the senator had since said the properties were legitimately owned by him and his family members.
Okorocha later unsealed the properties, which led to his arrest by operatives of the Imo State police command in February, 2021.
However, Okorocha’s special adviser on media, Sam Onwuemeodo, yesterday said the invitation of his boss by the EFCC is connected to petitions written by the Imo State government against him.
He added that the EFCC had since investigated the petitions and had been in various courts of the land with Okorocha.
Onwuemeodo in a statement sent to LEADERSHIP said, “The truth is that Okorocha left as the governor of Imo State on May 28, 2019 and shortly after his exit as governor, Imo State government wrote petitions upon petitions against him.
“The EFCC investigated the petitions and has been in various courts of the land with Okorocha to that effect.
“The matters between EFCC and Okorocha over his governorship in Imo have been pendent in various courts of the land.
“The Commission is doing its job and should be given the needed cooperation, and Okorocha, being a law-abiding citizen, would always cooperate with the commission over the matters in courts.
“Like we stated earlier, they didn’t invite Okorocha today, for the first time,” Onwuemeodo said.