By Paul Michael, Abuja
• Ex-governor risks missing APC presidential screening
A raid and barricading of the Abuja home of a former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha on Tuesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) followed his alleged refusal to honour its invitation on several occasions.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC alleged that Okorocha jumped an administrative bail earlier granted him.
It also alleged that attempts to arraign Okorocha, who current represents Imo West senatorial district, were stalled twice due to his absence after reportedly evading service of processes.
“Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), today May 24, 2022, arrived at the Maitama, Abuja home of a former Governor of Imo state, Senator Rochas Okorocha, to effect his arrest.
“The move followed the refusal of the former governor to honour invitations after jumping the administrative bail earlier granted him by the commission.
“EFCC had on January 24, 2022, filed a 17-count criminal charge bordering on diversion of public funds and properties to the tune of N2.9 billion against Okorocha, The Trumpet gathered.
“The case was assigned to Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja but attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha, were twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of
“At the last adjourned date, March 28th, 2022, Justice Ekwo before adjourning until May 30th, 2022, had warned that it was ‘the last adjournment I shall grant in this matter.’
“In the circumstances, the commission is left with no option than to effect the arrest of Senator Okorocha and bring him to trial,” EFCC said.
Meanwhile, the embattled former senator earlier pleaded with operatives of the Commission who invaded and barricaded his home to allow him to go for the screening of presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) holding Tuesday.
Okorocha is one of the 24 presidential aspirants being screened by the APC.
The Senator told newsmen that he was under siege after EFCC operatives on Tuesday barricaded his house.
He described the situation as an ugly development that does not portray the EFCC in good light.
He alleged that the Commission’s invasion was a ploy to stop him from attending the APC presidential screening.
Contrary to the claim of the EFCC, he also claimed that no formal invitation was extended to him before the raid.
According to him: “Frankly speaking, I find myself in a situation of what I call hostage. Policemen and EFCC operatives are currently in my compound to possibly whisk me away and my gate is blocked.
“All I am asking is to be allowed to go for my screening because I am a presidential aspirant and our election comes up on Sunday. If I am not allowed to go for this screening, I might miss it.
“I am not an unknown person in the country. I have an address and people know me in the country. All that it takes for the EFCC is to send me an invitation and I will gladly oblige.”
Also, his lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), described the attempt by the EFCC to arrest the Senator without a search warrant as a violation of his fundamental human rights.
According to him, “I got a distress call that the Rochas family is under siege as the lead counsel who is handling all the matters that are in Court concerning this matter.
“I got here and I met a detachment of EFCC officers and security men and they are led by investigation officers who are familiar to us the legal team in this matter.
“My simple request is, what is going on here and the answer is that the Director Operations wants to have a meeting with His Excellency former Governor and Distinguished Senator Rochas Okorocha.
“Before now, there are issues on the ground. There are extant Court Orders restraining arrest. There are Court Orders made by the Federal High Court in Abuja restraining interrogation on this matter.
“So, what I have sought to do is to ask whether there are letters for aninvitation? There are none. Whether there are warrants for the arrest? There is none.
“Are there court processes to be served? There are none. In fact, the processes are served by Court officials, who are the bailiff of the Court.
“I then asked what is really going on? I’ve also requested that the invitee should be given time to report either later this week or early next or any other time other than the day of the screening of presidential aspirants on the platform of APC which the Distinguished Senator is a most prominent person who is to be screened for the
presidency of Nigeria.
“Today is the day of screening and an invitation by any security agency not preceded by a letter of invitation or notice before now, to us is very prejudicial. That is why we requested that a day be fixed so that the senator can voluntarily go and keep an appointment with whoever it is that is inviting him again that has been turned down.
“As I speak to you now the siege continues but reasoning must be made to prevail. What normally happens in such a circumstance like this in a country governed by law and the Constitution is that a citizen has fundamental human rights to freedom even when you are being investigated for any alleged offence.
“I dare say it is a breach of the fundamental human rights of citizen Rochas Okorocha and it has to stop.”