The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had asked the anti-graft agency, EFCC, to discontinue the prosecution of former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, before the anti-graft agency forcibly arrested him on Tuesday, official documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES have revealed.
Mr Malami’s directive, apparently disregarded, was contained in a letter issued on April 21 to Abdulrasheed Bawa, the chairman of the EFCC, in response to complaints made by Ola Olanipekun, the counsel to Mr Okorocha.
According to the letter signed by Mr Malami, Mr Olanipekun, a senior lawyer, accused the EFCC of violating a court order in the prosecution and arrest of the former Imo State governor.
Based on Mr Okorocha’s complaints, the AGF drew the attention of the EFCC to a court order by the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, last year, declaring “the entire investigation of Mr. Okorocha by the commission as being contrary to the presumption of innocence and right to fair hearing guaranteed to” Mr Okorocha in the constitution.
Mr Malami added that investigating and prosecuting Mr Okorocha is also in contravention of a fair hearing guaranteed to Mr Okorocha under Section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution.
“Further,” said Mr Malami, “my attention has been drawn to the most recent order of the Federal High Court Port-Harcourt coram Dalop Pam in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/45/2019 dated 6th September 2021 and 6th December 2021 respectively, inter alia declaring the entire investigation of Senator Okorocha by the Commission as being contrary to the presumption of innocence and right to fair hearing guaranteed to Senator Okorocha under Section 6(6) and 35 of the 199 constitutions of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended and consequently thanks and void.”
“In the circumstances and further to all correspondence and court orders, earlier started you are requested to consider compliance.”
The EFCC and the legal team of Mr Okorocha have been at loggerheads over the Port Harcourt court judgement.
Mr Olanipekun, Mr Okorocha’s lawyer, had filed a notice at the court, accusing the EFCC of violating the court verdict, which ordered the EFCC to release the senator’s passport, the Guardian reported in February.
Following the commission’s failure to follow the court’s decision, Mr Okorocha later filed a suit in the same court for the protection of his human rights, which he said were being violated.
Mr Olanipekun informed the court during the reopening of proceedings on February 8, at the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt that the court had entered a decision in favour of Mr Okorocha on December 6, 2021, but that the EFCC refused to comply.
Mr Olanipekun further told the court that despite the court’s order, the EFCC refused to release the defendant’s international passport and travel documents, adding, “Today it appears that no judgment has been recorded here.”
EFCC’s lawyer, N.A Dodo, denied that the EFCC had broken the court’s order, saying that the commission had phoned Mr Okorocha to pick up his passport and other travel documents, but that he did reply.
He told the court that Mr Okorocha’s application had only been received and that he needed time to reply to the processes.
Operatives of the EFCC arrested Mr Okorocha, on Tuesday, after over six hours of siege to his Maitama Abuja home. Dozens of protesters had stormed Mr Okorocha’s Abuja home to protest the siege to arrest him.
EFCC said it needed to forcibly arrest Mr Okorocha after he jumped an administrative bail granted him by the commission. The EFCC also said he evaded service of court papers in his trial at an Abuja court on charges of conspiracy, stealing, and laundering N2.9 billion of Imo State funds.