By PAUL MICHAEL
A Federal High Court in Abuja has granted a former governor of Imo State and presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Rochas Okorocha, bail in the sum of N500 million and one surety in like sum. Okorocha, who currently represents the Imo West senatorial district at the red chamber, is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 17-count N2.9 billion fraud charge.
He was accused of conspiring with others, including a member of the APC and five companies to steal from public coffers, although he has since denied any wrongdoing. Okorocha was brought to the Federal High Court in Abuja by operatives of the EFCC on Monday, 30 May 2022.
At the proceeding, the former governor took a stand in the dock after which the charges were read to him. In his response, he pleaded not guilty to the charges. The second defendant in the suit, Anyim Chinenye, as well as the five companies also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
After taking their plea, Okorocha’s lawyer, Mr Okey Amaechi, prayed the court to release his client on bail, pending the determination of the case against him.
Amaechi also drew the attention of the court to the fact that his client was roughly arrested before the screening of the presidential aspirants of the APC. However, the EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr Gbolahan Latona, told the court that Okorocha raised some issues in his bail application that would require its response.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until the following day, Tuesday to hear the bail applications of the defendants and ordered that they should remain in EFCC custody, pending the determination of their bail applications. At the resumption of proceedings on Tuesday, the court granted the former governor bail in the sum of N500 million and one surety in like sum.
According to the court, the surety should be a citizen of Nigeria, who owns a landed property in Abuja, and the original property document shouldbe deposited with the court registry.
It further directed the registrar of the court to verify the said property and ordered the defendant not to travel outside the jurisdiction of the court, without the court’s permission.
The EFCC is to deposit the defendant’s passport with the court registry. The registrar of the court is to inform the Nigerian Immigration service, that the passport of the defendant is with the court. Mr Okorocha is billed to attend APC Presidential screening today at the Transcorp Hotels, Abuja.
The Trumpet recalled that Okorocha was arrested in a commando-style be the EFCC that stormed his Maitama residence of Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory last week Tuesday.
The EFCC’s officials, who insisted that Okorocha must submit himself for arrest for failing to honour a long-standing invitation by the agency, later barricaded the residence of the presidential aspirant.
Following a series of drama at the scene, gunshots were heard as the anti-graft agency’s team broke into Okorocha’s house and left with the presidential aspirant to their office.
The lawmaker had on Friday last week, lost his request to the court to be admitted on bail, pending the determination of a suit he had instituted against the Federal Government and the anti-graft agency.
Okorocha had predicated his bail request on the ground that he was a presidential aspirant of the APC, adding that his political ambition would be jeopardised unless he was granted bail to proceed for screening.