Chief C.O.C. Akaolisa, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Imo State, has accused Senator 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 levelled the allegation before Justice Ahmed Muhammed of the Federal High Court at the Tuesday sitting of the court n Abuja.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Okorocha, the representative of 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 and the Imo State panel from probing his government between 2011 and 2019.

Other defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of Imo State; 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 State; Committee for the Review of appointments recruitments and related matters from 2015 till date; and the Committee for the investigation of LGA, among others.

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 continue its sitting.

Maduabuchi said: “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.”

Maduabuchi said he had filed an affidavit on Monday in 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 noted 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 State, 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.

He said: “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.”

Akaolisa told the court that some commissioners in 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 or the other, seeking for 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 the counsel to the Imo State 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 August 5 for hearing of the preliminary objection.

TheEagle Online

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