List of Legal Challenges Rochas Okorocha has faced since 2015 has been compiled by this reporter.
Newsonline reports that Rochas Okorocha who was Born on September 22, 1962, is a former two-term governor of Imo State who is currently the senator representing Imo West Senatorial district at the 9th National Assembly.
This online newspaper understands that Okorocha’s political career began when he was appointed Commissioner on the Federal Character Commission and a Member of the National Constitutional Conference.
Newsonline Nigeria reports that Rochas was Imo State Governor between May 2011–May 2019. Okorocha’s tenure in office was an intriguing one as he took various decisions which stirred serious controversies in the state.
After leaving office, he contested the senatorial ticket for the 9th Senate representing Imo West Orlu senatorial zone during the 2019 National Assembly and won.
List of legal challenges from 2015 to 2022
40 Imo monarchs drag Okorocha to court
While serving as governor of Imo state, Mr Okorocha was entangled in many court cases. Let’s take a look at the cases the current senator has faced from 2015 to 2022.
In 2015, 40 Imo monarchs dragged Okorocha and nine others to court over alleged punitive measures against the traditional institution in the state. They prayed the court to stop the alleged executive excesses of the governor against the traditional institution in the state.
Okorocha had set up a panel to investigate the monarchs which he accused of involving in partisan politics by receiving Goodluck Jonathan during an official visit to the state.
The Monarchs also contending that the Imo State Council of Ndi-eze as constituted by Governor Okorocha and headed by Ohiri is an illegal and unlawful body, having been constituted in contravention to section 2 of Law No. 6 of 2006 (The Imo State of Nigeria Traditional Rulers, Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law).
Ruling in favour of the monarchs, Justice Bernadine Ngozi Ukoha restrained the defendants from taking any further action that would impinge on the matter before the court.
Deposition of the monarch of Obinugwu Community
In 2017, An Owerri High Court reinstated Cletus Ilomuanya, the traditional ruler of Obinugwu autonomous community in Orlu Local Government Area, who was deposed by the Imo Government led by Okorocha.
Okorocha had withdrawn Mr Ilomuanya’s staff of office and certificate of recognition on June 6, 2014, which made him approach the court.
The court in its ruling held that the Imo state government breached Law N0.6 of 2006 and violated various court judgments including that of the Supreme Court which restored his position as Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers.
Consequently, the court declared that the purported withdrawal of Mr Ilomuanya’s certificate of recognition by Governor Okorocha was “illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.”
The judge also restrained Okorocha from doing anything that would truncate Mr. Ilomuanya’s tenure as Chairman of Imo Traditional Rulers Council.
Battle with INEC over the issuance of Certificate of Return
In 2019, a Federal High Court sitting in Owerri ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to refuse Mr Okorocha a Certificate of Return as a senator-elect for Imo West despite being declared the winner of the Imo west senatorial seat on February 23 2019.
According to INEC, a returning officer for the Imo West senatorial district alleged that he was compelled to declare Mr Okorocha as the winner.
Aggrieved by INEC’s decision, Mr Okorocha approached the Court seeking an order compelling INEC to issue him the certificate of return.
In June 2019, justice Okon Abang of the federal high court, Abuja Division nullified INEC’s decision. He held that the decision to deprive Mr Okorocha of the certificate fell outside the provisions of the law and was, therefore, a “lawless decision.”
Consequently, Justice Abang ordered INEC to award Okorocha his certificate of return as a Senator.
Imo Attorney-General sues Okocha and wife
In 2021, the Attorney-General of Imo state sued Okorocha, his wife and incorporated trustees of the Rochas Foundation.
He prayed the court to make an order of forfeiture on the grounds that the properties, which Mr Okorocha claimed are for the public, were converted to his personal use and that of his wife and the foundation.
In February 2021, the presiding judge, justice Fred Njemanze of the High Court sitting in Owerri, ordered the interim forfeiture of all the properties said to be acquired through “illegal means” by Rochas and wife.
Okorocha arrested for unsealing a property seized by Imo government
On February 21, Mr Rochas was arrested for unsealing a property seized by the Imo state government but was later released following the intervention of the southeast governor’s forum.
Mr Okorocha dragged the state government to a federal high court in Abuja asking the court to set aside the order for interim forfeiture.
He also prayed the court to restrain the defendants in the suit from probing him or implementing the recommendations of the panels set up to probe previous administrations in the state.
On August 9, 2021, Justice Njemanze ordered the final forfeiture of the said properties which were listed in the Imo state government white paper report on recovery of lands and other related matters.
The court ordered the state government to go ahead and do whatever it deems fit with the properties and that anyone who might have purchased any of the said properties should approach the court to prove their titles.
The properties includes; Eastern Palm University, Ogboko; Royal Spring Palm Hotels and Apartments; IBC staff quarters illegally acquired for the purpose of Rochas Foundation College, Owerri; magistrate quarters, Orlu road/cooperative office/Girls Guide illegally converted to private use housing market square, Kilimanjaro eatery; public building plot B/2 Otamiri South Extension Layout and Plot P5, Naze residential layout, Aba road.
EFCC files N2.9 billion fraud charges against Okorocha
On January 31 2022, the EFCC filed a 17-count criminal charge against Rochas Okorocha and others at a federal high court in Abuja over an alleged conspiracy to steal N2.9 billion in public funds.
EFCC alleged that Efforts made to serve Mr Okorocha the court processes was not fruitful and he had refused to honour their invitation.
The presiding judge threatened to strike out the case if the EFCC failed to produce Mr Okorocha at the next adjourned
In February 2022, Justice Emeka Nwite of the federal high court Abuja Division ordered the interim forfeiture of two Abuja properties belonging to Mr Okorocha,
The judge made the order following an ex-parte motion brought before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),
EFCC’s lawyer submitted that the motion was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud-related Offences Act 14, 2006.
The lawyer alleged that the said properties were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
On May 24, 2022, operatives of the EFCC, evaded Mr Okorocha’s residence after hours of siege on his premises and took him away.
EFCC revealed that he was arrested following his refusal to honour their invitations after jumping the administrative bail earlier granted him by the Commission.
On May 27, His lawyer approached the court In an ex-parte application praying the court to grant his client bail on liberal terms pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Justice Inyang Ekwo refused to grant the application for bail but ordered him to put the EFCC on notice.
The judge held that making an order for his bail will be unnecessary since the matter would be coming up on May 30.
Okorocha was remanded at the custody of EFCC till May 30 when he was arraigned before the court.
He pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge proffered against him by the EFCC.
Justice Ekwo ordered him to remain in EFCC’s custody and adjourned the matter for May 31, to hear the bail application.
On May 31, the court granted Mr Okorocha bail in the sum of N500 million or a surety in the like sum. The judge also ordered him to submit his passport to the court registry and seek the court’s permission before travelling outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Mr Okorocha was ordered to still be remanded with EFCC pending the perfection of their bail terms.
Commencement on his trial has been slated for November 6,7,8,9,10 and 11, 2022.