N2.9b ‘fraud’: EFCC whisks away Okorocha after hours of showdown

After hours of siege and drama, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested former Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha yesterday.

They broke into his residence and whisked him away.

The operatives gained entrance into Okorocha’s sitting room after dispersing his supporters, who were chanting solidarity songs to protest the siege.

The operative fired gunshots in an attempt to arrest the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential aspirant.

The senator’s second son, Amen, was injured in the melee.

The anti-graft agency’s agents laid siege to Okorocha’s Maitama home at 11.30 am.

They barricaded the entrance gate with their vehicles. Armed policemen were stationed at strategic locations in and outside the premises.

Briefing reporters before he was arrested, Okorocha described the siege as an ugly development.

He said the invasion was to stop him from attending the APC presidential screening, which he said was ongoing.

The former governor also explained that no formal invitation was extended to him before the EFCC raid.

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He said: “The situation I find myself in is 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 it takes for the EFCC is to send me an invitation and I will gladly oblige.’’

Okorocha’s lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), described the attempt to arrest the Senator without a search warrant as a violation of rights.

He said: “I got a distress call that the Rochas family is under siege.

“I got here and I met a detachment of EFCC officers and security men led by investigation officers.

“I asked what was going on and was told that the Director of Operations wanted to have a meeting with Senator Okorocha.

“Extant court orders are restraining his arrest. There are no letters of invitation or warrants of arrest. There is none.

“I 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 presidential aspirants under the platform of APC, which the distinguished Senator is a most prominent person who is to be screened for the presidency of Nigeria.

“Today (yesterday) is the day of screening and an invitation by any security agencies that are 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.

“I dare say it (the siege) is a breach of the fundamental human rights of citizen Rochas Okorocha and it has to stop.”

But the EFCC said its operatives laid siege to Okorocha’s residence due to his refusal to honour the commission’s invitations.

It said Okorocha jumped an administrative bail granted him by EFCC.

It also alleged that attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha was twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of processes.

The EFCC made the clarifications in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren.

The statement said: “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 N2.9billion against Okorocha.

“The case was assigned to Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja but attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha was twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of processes.

“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.”

<<The Nation>>