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A federal high court in Abuja has discharged Rochas Okorocha, former Imo state governor, of the N2.9 billion fraud charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Inyang Ekwo who delivered the ruling on Monday struck out the EFCC’s suit for contravening section 105 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, which gives the honorable attorney-general of the federation (HAGF) the power to recall a case.
In a letter dated September 12, 2022, Abubakar Malami, the HAGF, directed the commission to forward the case file as well as the commission’s comments on the issue for review.
‘All that the law required of the respondent (EFCC) was for the respondent, when directed by the HAGF pursuant to any enactment, to comply and not act as if it is not under the law or is exempted thereby,’ Ekwo said.
‘For the avoidance of doubt, the office of the HAGF is founded on the provisions of the constitution and is thereby preserved.
‘The controversies and drama surrounding this tral proceeding is needless and it is time to stop it.’
The judge further held that from the moment the HAGF gave the directive to the EFCC, the commission ceased to have the legal authority to prosecute or continue the prosecution of the case.
‘In other words, the intervention of the HAGF in any criminal proceeding ends the authority of the prosecuting agency in the matter unless otherwise directed by the HAGF,’ he
“In the end, I find that non-compliance by the respondent with the directive of the HAGF as stated in Exhibit Okorocha 7 is fatal to this proceeding and has rendered it a nullity.
‘The respondent is not empowered by any law to continue with this proceeding after the HAGF issued the directive in Exhibit Okorocha 7.
‘With Exhibit Okorocha 7, it is only the HAGF that can decide whether or not to charge the defendants upon the case file being remitted to his office as directed.’
The judge also agreed with Okorocha’s submission that he cannot be made to stand trial considering the subsisting judgment (FHC/PH/FHR/165) of a federal high court in Port Harcourt delivered on December 6, 2021 which stopped his prosecution after faulting the probe process.
According to the judge, the order is binding until it is set aside.
“The fact that a person refuses to comply with the law does not change the law, neither does the law change to accommodate the act of non-compliance by any person,” Ekwo said.
Okorocha was arraigned on a 17-count charge of money laundering to which he pleaded not guilty in May 2022.
He was arraigned alongside Anyim Chinenye, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and five companies — Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.