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Battle over marked properties: Court refuses Okorocha’s request against IMSG

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By Sunday Elom N

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, declined the Imo state former governor, Rochas Okorocha’s application seeking to restrict the Imo state government from taking further action on his marked properties in Owerri, the state capital.

Recall that Okorocha has been up against the Hope Uzodinma-led Imo state government and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, since the two authorities commenced investigation on his eight-year administration as governor of the state. The investigations led to the state government marking some of his assets, including his Foundation College, for forfeiture.

But, in an attempt to thwart the probe or further actions targeted at his assets, Okorocha, who is currently representing Imo West Senatorial District at the Nigerian Senate, filed legal suit against the EFCC, the attorney general of Imo state and all the members of seven different panels set up by the Imo state government to probe his administration.

Okorocha who, through his counsel, Oba Maduabuchi, SAN, on Wednesday August 11, 2021, told the presiding judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, that his properties had been marked for forfeiture, prayed the court to grant him an order to preserve his properties pending resolution on the case.

The ex-governor said that if the court did not issue a preservative order against the EFCC and the Imo state government, he would be prejudiced.

But the respondents, through their lawyers, challenged the jurisdiction of Justice Mohammed to entertain the suit, given that he is a vacation judge, with the substantive case already adjourned during the regular court session till September 22, 2021.

The EFCC and the Imo state government, however, insisted that the court, not being in its regular session, had no jurisdiction to hear Okorocha’s suit, let alone grant his prayers.

The respondents also argued that Okorocha did not meet the condition precedent for the matter to be entertained during vacation, insisting that the approval of the chief judge of the Federal High Court ought to be obtained before such matter could be heard during vacation but that was not done.

They further argued that the senator breached Order 46 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedures Rule 2019, while filing the fresh motion.

After weighing Okorocha’s prayer and the respondents’ arguments in a legal balance, Justice Mohammed, in his ruling, held that making an order was tantamount to assuming jurisdiction in the suit.

Justice Mohammed said that it was clear that the central point of contention was whether the court could make an order when the issue of jurisdiction was still pending.

In Justice Mohammed’s words, he said, “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.”

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