By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja.
Amid shouts by his supporters, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday whisked away a former Imo State Governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, on the order of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Okorocha, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressive Congress APC was ordered to remain in the custody of the anti-graft agency until he fully perfects the stringent bail conditions imposed on him.
Immediately after the court order was made, operatives of the EFCC led him away amid tight security and shouting by his sympathisers who had come to witness the proceedings.
Looking disturbed by the decision of the Court which may abort his screening for the presidential primary, Okorocha could not respond to cheers from well wishers.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court had imposed stringent bail conditions on Okorocha who is standing trial in an alleged N2.9B corruption charges.
The Judge admitted the ex- governor to bail in the sum of N500m and one surety in the like sum.
Equally admitted to bail by Justice Inyang Ekwo is his co-accused, Anyim Nyerere who was arraigned with him in a 17-count money laundering charge.
In the case of Nyerere, the court ordered that he should continue on the administrative bail granted him by EFCC, for exhibiting good conduct while on bail.
The Judge however said that circumstances and conduct of Okorocha would not make the court to extend same customary bail condition to him.
He, therefore, ordered that Okorocha’s surety must have a property in Abuja not below N500m and the original title documents of the property must be deposited with the court Registrar.
Justice Ekwo further ordered that the original title document must be taken to Abuja Geographical Information System(AGIS) for verification by the Registrar
Thereafter, the Registrar must swear to an affidavit on the report of his findings on the authenticity or otherwise of the property documents.
In addition, Senator Okorocha’s traveling documents were ordered to be deposited with the court registrar and that he must not travel out of the country without the express permission of the court.
The Nigerian Immigration Service(NIS), the Judge ordered, must be alerted in writing by the Court Registrar that the Passport of the former governor is in the custody of the court and should not be allowed to travel out of the country without an order of court.
Justice Ekwo held that bail is at the discretion of the court but added that “circumstances and conduct of the first defendant (Okorocha) will not make the court to admit him to customary bail conditions”.
In the case of the 2nd defendant, the court observed that since he did not tamper or jump the administrative bail given to him by the EFCC, he should remain on same.
Justice Ekwo finally ordered that Okorocha should remain in the custody of the EFCC until the bail conditions are met.
Meanwhile the court has adjourned trial to November 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
Okorocha who was arraigned on Monday pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge preferred against him and six others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The ex-governor, who is currently the Senator representing Imo West, had initially declared his intention to contest for the presidency in the 2023 general elections.
He was, however, arrested by operatives of the agency, few hours before his political party, the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, screened its presidential candidates.
His arrest was predicated on the alleged refusal by the former governor to make himself available for trial, as the prosecution agency accused him of deliberately evading service of the charge on him.
Senator Okorocha, who took his plea before Justice Inyang Ekwo, was arraigned alongside a chieftain of the All Progressive, APC, Anyim Nyerere Chinenye, and five companies- Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.
The anti-graft agency had in the charge, alleged that the defendants sequentially siphoned funds from the Imo State Government House account and Imo State Joint Local Government Project account to the tune of N2.9B and diverted same into accounts of private firms.