Marked Assets: Why Court Declined Okorocha’s Request To Restrain Imo Govt

Abuja – The reason why the refused to grant Senator Rochas Okorocha’s request to restrain the Imo State government from further steps concerning his marked properties in Owerri has emerged.

Recall that the Federal High in Abuja, on Wednesday, turned down Rochas Okorocha’s application seeking to stop the Imo State Government from taking further steps concerning his marked properties in Owerri, the state capital.

Mr Okorocha, who was the immediate-past governor of Imo State, has been locked in a legal battle with the current Imo State government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since they started investigating his eight-year administration as governor of the state.

To stop the investigations or any steps aimed at his assets and those of his family members, Mr Okorocha, who is the incumbent senator representing Imo West, sued the EFCC, the Attorney General of Imo State, and all the members of seven different panels set up by Imo State government to investigate his administration.

Okorocha seeks preservative orders
At Wednesday’s proceedings, Mr Okorocha, through his lawyer, Oba Maduabuchi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), told the judge, Ahmed Mohammed, that his properties had been marked for confiscation.

But Mr Okorocha’s lawyer said he only sought the order to preserve his properties pending the resolution of ongoing issues in the case.

He said further that unless the court issued a preservative order against the EFCC and the Imo State, he would be prejudiced.

All the respondents, through their counsel, challenged the jurisdiction of Mr Mohammed to hear the suit given that he is a vacation judge, and the substantive case already adjourned during the regular court session till September 22, 2021.

Both the EFCC and the Imo State government said the court, not being in its regular session, had no jurisdiction to hear Mr Okorocha’s suit and grant his prayers during the court vacation reserved for only some designated cases.

They further argued that Mr Okorocha did not meet the condition precedent for the matter to be heard during vacation, adding that the fiat of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court ought to be sought and obtained before such matter could be heard during vacation.

They also cited Order 46 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedures Rule 2019, which they held was breached by Mr Okorocha while filing the fresh motion.

Ruling
In a ruling, the judge held that making an order was tantamount to assuming jurisdiction in the suit.

Mr Mohammed stated that it was clear that the bone of contention was whether the court can make an order when the issue of jurisdiction was still pending.

“My simple response is that since making an order is akin to remotely assuming jurisdiction, the court cannot make the order as requested by the applicant.

“I adjourn this matter to August 24 to hear applications challenging the jurisdiction to hear the matter during vacation,” Mr Mohammed said.

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