Rochas Okorocha, the former governor of Imo State, and six others have been exonerated of a N3 billion fraud case filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In a judgement issued on Monday, Justice Inyang Ekwo affirmed the defendants’ objection to the legitimacy of the allegation.
Justice Ekwo ruled that the EFCC acted improperly when it initiated criminal proceedings against Okorocha and others despite a directive from the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
The judge ruled that the EFCC, like all other law enforcement/prosecution agencies, was required to defer to the AGF’s directive about whether or not to prosecute an alleged offender.
Justice Ekwo ruled that the EFCC’s failure to comply with the AGF’s direction to submit the case file in the matter involving Okorocha and others for review rendered the EFCC’s criminal proceeding against them null and void.
The judge declared the proceeding null and void and released the defendants, Okorocha, Nyerere Chinyere, Naphtali International Ltd, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Ltd, Consolid Projects Consulting Ltd, Pramif International Ltd, and Legend World Concepts Ltd.
Justice Ekwo stated that the AGF’s direction in a letter to the EFCC dated September 12, 2022, to transmit the case file and the commission’s views on the matters for examination and review was binding on the commission.
“All that the law demanded of the respondent (EFCC) when directed by the HAGF pursuant to any statute was for the respondent to comply and not act as if it is not subject to the law or is exempt from it,” he said.
“For the avoidance of dispute, the HAGF’s office is established on the requirements of the constitution and is thus maintained.
“The controversy and drama surrounding this judicial action are unnecessary, and it is time to end them.”
Justice Ekwo ruled that the EFCC lacked the legal jurisdiction to prosecute or continue prosecuting the case as of the time the AGF issued the directive to the agency.
“In other words, the intervention of the HAGF in any criminal action terminates the prosecuting agency’s authority in the matter, unless the HAGF directs differently.
“In conclusion, I find that the respondent’s failure to comply with the direction of the HAGF, as stated in Exhibit Okorocha 7, has rendered this process null and void.
“No statute authorizes the respondent to continue with this proceeding after the HAGF issued the directive in Exhibit Okorocha 7,” the court ruled.
“Only the HAGF can decide whether or not to charge the defendants with regard to Exhibit Okorocha 7 upon receiving the case file as requested,” he added.
The judge agreed with the defendants that the earlier ruling of a court of coordinated jurisdiction sitting in Port Harcourt, in a case marked: FHC/PH/FHR/165, between Okorocha and EFCC, restraining the commission from moving further on the alleged offense, had not been vacated.
Justice Ekwo, who ruled that the order is enforceable until revoked, stated: “The fact that a person refuses to comply with the law does not alter the law, nor does the law change to accommodate the act of noncompliance by any individual.
“When a person chooses not to comply with the law, the law turns its back on that individual.
“When this occurs, every action or decision done by that individual in the course of noncompliance becomes unlawful, and the court will set aside the act of noncompliance ex debito justitiae.
“This is the case because an illegal conduct cannot be redeemed through any means.
“I thus order the dismissal of the charge that initiated this case. The result is that the defendants are released,” said Ekwo.
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