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N500m bail: Court seizes Okorocha’s passport, bars him from travelling abroad

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The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, granted bail to the detained former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, to the tune of N500million with one surety in like sum.

 

Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo okayed Okorocha’s release on bail after he dismissed a counter-affidavit the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, filed against him.

EFCC had through its lawyer, Mr. O. C. Ugwu, urged the court to allow the former governor to remain in custody, alleging that he posed a flight risk.

The prosecution maintained that Okorocha not only breached the administrative bail it earlier granted to him but equally made himself inaccessible, a situation that led to his forceful arrest on May 24.

It told the court that the erstwhile governor, who is facing a 17-count money laundering charge, can interfere with some of its proposed witnesses.

“My lord, on two consecutive occasions, the 1st defendant (Okorocha) frustrated his arraignment by refusing to appear in court,” EFCC’s lawyer added.

However, counsel to the defendant, Mr. Solomon Umoh, SAN, assured the court that his client would be available to face his trial.

The defence lawyer stressed that his client, being a responsible citizen and a presidential aspirant, would not conduct himself in any manner that would undermine the sanctity of the court.

He, therefore, begged the court to release him on bail on self-recognizance or in the most liberal terms, noting that the charge against him contained bailable offences.

More so, Umoh, SAN, argued that it was within his client’s constitutional right to be presumed innocent until the allegations against him are established by the EFCC.

“My lord, the applicant is a man that is well known in this society. Therefore, the prosecution’s contention that he could not be reached for the charge to be served on him is not true as he could have been served through substituted means,” Umoh added.

In his short ruling, trial Justice Ekwo said he was minded to exercise his discretion in favour of the defendant.

He ordered the defendant to produce one surety that must be a responsible citizen and owner of landed property in Abuja worth the total bail sum.

The trial judge held that the surety must deposit the original title documents of the property with the Registrar of the court for verification, even as he ordered Okorocha to surrender all his travel documents and not leave the country without permission.

He directed the Court’s Registrar to write to the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, notifying it about the seizure of the defendant’s passport and the need for him to always secure permission before traveling out of the country.

The court held that the defendant must remain in the custody of the EFCC, pending the perfection of all his bail conditions.

Likewise, the court also gave bail to the 2nd defendant in the matter, Mr. Anyim Nyerere Chinenye, who is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, on terms of the administrative bail the EFCC earlier handed to him.

Justice Ekwo subsequently adjourned the matter till November 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 for trial.

Okorocha, who piloted the affairs of Imo State from 2011 to 2019, was arraigned on Monday alongside Mr. Chinenye and five companies, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.

EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired and diverted funds belonging to Imo State, to the tune of about N2.9billion.

The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants sequentially siphoned funds from the Imo State Government House account and Imo State Joint Local Government Project account, and diverted same into accounts of private firms for their personal use.

According to the prosecution, the alleged offence was committed between October 2014 and February 2016.

However, the defendants took turns and pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Okorocha, who is currently the Senator representing Imo West, earlier declared his intention to contest for presidency in the 2023 general elections.

He was however arrested by operatives of the agency, a few hours before the time his political party, the APC, was initially slated to screen its presidential aspirants.

The arrest of the former governor followed his alleged refusal to make himself available for trial.

EFCC alleged that he deliberately evaded service of the charge on him.

I didn’t take Attorney General to court —Okorocha

After the court’s decision, the former governor reacted to the allegation that he sued the Attorney General of the Federation in his bid to obtain bail but Okorocha said he did not take the Attorney General of the Federation to court on a suit seeking for his (Okorocha’s) bail application.

An online report had alleged the Attorney General of the Federation was included in Okorocha’s suit for bail application and N1 billion damages demanded over the alleged invasion of his private house in Abuja by the officials of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

According to a statement by his Media Adviser, Sam Onwuemedo,”Senator Rochas Okorocha has been in EFCC custody since the agents of the commission stormed his house and arrested him. The Commission took him to court on Monday, May 30, 2022, with other accused persons in the matter. The Presiding judge, in his wisdom, adjourned the matter to Tuesday, May 31, 2022, for Okorocha’s bail application to be taken or heard.

“We were concerned with the expected hearing of the bail application today when our attention was drawn to the online stories of N1b suit and engagement of 5 SANs. Okorocha has no reason to take either the Attorney General of the Federation or the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, to court and claim 1b damages over the invasion of his house since the incident had nothing to do with the AGF or his office.

“lf Okorocha comes out of detention and decides to take legal action to press for damages, over the invasion of his residence, he knows those who acted. We do not think he would include the AGF’s office. We know some patriotic Human Rights Lawyers in the country and some of them, highly respected SANs have been of immense help in dealing with human rights violations in the country, most of the time, on their own to help the society.

“We are therefore sure that the renowned Senior Advocates mentioned in the online stories might have been challenged by the invasion of Okorocha’s private residence by agents of the EFCC and might have also decided to take the bull by the horns.

“If Okorocha comes out of detention and decides to walk in that direction, fine. But one fact would be made clear and that is, that the AGF and the office of AGF would not be part of the action because they had nothing to do with the invasion of Okorocha’s private residence.

“We have to keep the record straight. We are looking forward to seeing Okorocha out of detention by the Grace of God and the magnanimity of His Lordship handling the case.”

I thank Nigerians for their support —Okorocha

Okorocha also thanked Nigerians for their support hours after he was granted bail by Justice Inyang Ekwo.

He said: “We want to inform the general public that Justice Inyang Ekwo, of the Federal High Court Abuja, has graciously granted bail to Senator Rochas Okorocha. His Lordship, in his wisdom, granted Okorocha bail on Tuesday, May 31, 2022,( yesterday).

“Okorocha had remained in the custody of the Economic And Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, since the invasion of his private residence and subsequent arrest. He was taken to court on Monday, May 30, 2022, with five others, over alleged N2.9 fraud. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Today, Tuesday, May 31, 2022, Justice Ekwo, magnanimously, granted bail to the former governor of lmo State and Senator Representing lmo West Senatorial District.

“We thank God for this juicy and lofty development. We thank Nigerians, within and outside, who had continued to send correspondences to show concern, over the fate of the foremost African philanthropist. We remain grateful for their genuine concern.”

“We also thank those who had devoted their precious time to prayers, for GOD’S intervention. Most importantly, our gratitude goes to justice Ekwo, who had seen the efficacy of granting bail to the Ogboko born enigma.

“Equally, we pray that the Almighty God would bless the astute lawyers handling the case, immensely. They have remained wonderful. We ask God to show love to the leadership and officers of the EFCC and grant them their heart desires,” Okorocha said.

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PHOTOS: Large Turnout As Tinubu Campaign In Lagos

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There was a large turnout of supporters in Lagos State on Saturday at the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential and governorship campaign rally held at Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere.

Photos posted by the official Twitter account of the APC Presidential Campaign Council show hundreds of supporters seated with banners displaying the names and images of the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima.

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INDEPENDENT CAMPAIGN GROUP FLOATED IN LAGOS FOR TINUBU, SANWO-OLU

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Tayo Ayinde, Baba Eto lead grassroots campaign for APC candidates

An Independent Campaign Group (ICG) has been floated in Lagos State for the re-election of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the actualisation of the presidential ambition of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Frontline politician and Christian leader, Cardinal James Odunmbaku, popularly known as Baba Eto, is the chairman of the independent group whose role will be complementary to the ongoing campaign of the Lagos APC.

Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, who led similar effort in 2018, is the Director General of the ICG. Ayinde will be overseeing the activities of all the directorates under the group.

The ICG was constituted purposely for the mobilisation of voters at the grassroots level towards meeting the target of five million votes for the party in the presidential candidate and to deliver votes across Lagos councils for the party’s governorship flag bearer.

Odunmbaku said the mandate of the ICG was to create a penetrating structure that would independently take the party’s campaign activities to the grassroots. He said the group’s mission was to operate from the grassroots to the top level.

He said: “Our work is a simple but technical one, because we operate from the grassroots to the top level. This Independent Campaign Group is an assembly of grassroots volunteers and mobilisers working for the actualisation of the presidential ambition of our leader, Asiwaju Tinubu, and for the re-election of our performing Governor Sanwo-Olu.

“Everyone appointed into this group has been given the charge to engage Lagosians on our message. They have shown their readiness to work and take the campaign to the voters in theirs abodes. Our operation and activities are independent of the party’s ongoing campaign but we will be working in complementary to the campaign activities of the party.”

Heads of the 60 directorates in the group were sworn in on Friday at its office in GRA, Ikeja.

Bashorun Sikiru Alabi-McFoy is the Deputy Director General. Chairman of Conference 57 in Lagos, Hon. Kolade Alabi, is the adviser to the group m.

There are four Assistant Directors-General for the ICG in the three senatorial districts, with Lagos West having two Deputy DGs to oversee the group’s activities in Badagry and Ikeja divisions.

Jubril Gawat, an influential social media user and Senior Special Assistant to Gov. Sanwo-Olu on New Media, leads the Directorate of Digital Communications.

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I have never, won’t run my administration on religious bias, Tinubu assures CAN

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…says choice of Shettima has nothing to do with religion

Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has assured the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria that he will not run his administration on the basis of religion if elected President of Nigeria.

Tinubu who met with the CAN leadership in Abuja on Wednesday at an interactive session assured them that the same way his administration did not discriminate against anyone either based on tribe, religion or gender when he was Lagos Governor, he would not start such in office as president.

He was accompanied to the session by his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Presidential Running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Governors Hope Uzodinnma (Imo), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara), Deputy Senate Leader Senator Boroffice Ajayi, Senate Chief Whip Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume and many others.

The leadership of CAN under new president Daniel Ukoh presented a charter of demands and issues to the APC presidential candidate.

They demanded among others state police or a decentralized policing system, devolution of power to states, equal rights for all religions and their adherents, right to self-determination by all ethnic groups, right to control natural resources by communities that bear them, no to open grazing, and equitable electoral system that guarantees the right to vote and be voted for by all.

Tinubu said, “My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organizations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign.

“As Governor of Lagos, I partnered with the Christian to improve lives and foster education. For instance, I returned mission schools to their owners, most of who are Christians.

“I instituted yearly Christian Denomination Service at the Governor’s residence as we approached the new year. This tradition continues in Lagos.

“More importantly, we fostered an atmosphere of religious tolerance and inter-faith collaboration. My cabinet was diverse and talented.

“In the exercise of government, I did not give a thought to whether a team member was Christian or Muslim, Yoruba, Igbo or Arewa.

“I have never lent myself to baseless prejudice and discrimination. To do so would be a recipe for failure in the governance of a diverse society and I am not a man that is familiar with failing.

“I never chased people out of Lagos nor made them feel unwanted. Under my administration Lagos welcomed all comers and continues to do so today.

“After me, Lagos has had one Muslim and two Christian governors. I may not be perfect. What human being is? But I am not a petty man secretly wedded to secret biases and prejudices.

“As such, I see all Nigerians as equals and as brothers and sisters in our national family. This means no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else, regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender. Anyone who does not hold this fair and equitable view, should not run for president in a country such as ours.”

He said the Christian body has a great role as the moral compass of the society which he cherishes and will always support.

“You, as an organization and as individual leaders of CAN, are entrusted as the watch person of the welfare of this society from a Christian perspective. Which means functioning in an atmosphere of charity, understanding, patience and wisdom.

” I understand the tremendous importance of your work and have nothing but the deepest respect for your selfless contributions to our national cause,” he added.

On his choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate, which has generated a lot of controversies, Tinubu assured the Christian body that he made the best available choice at his disposal without recourse to religious sentiments.

“I did not choose Senator Shettima so that we could form a same faith ticket. The ticket was constructed as a same progressive and people- based ideology ticket.

“I offer a confession. I selected Senator Shettima thinking more about who would best help me govern. Picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easier. But the easy way is rarely the right one. The selection of a running mate is at once a very momentous yet very intimate decision.

“Resting such a key decision on religious affiliation as the primary weight did not sit well with me. I am not saying there were not good and adequate potential running mates of the Christian faith.

“What I am saying is that the times we inhabit do not lend themselves to the good or adequate. We have urgent problems that lend themselves not to a Christian or Muslim solution. We need the best solution.

“Every time I thought about it, and I did think a lot; I came to the same conclusion: Kashim Shettima

— His faith was immaterial.

— He is a brilliant man with superior intellectual capacity. He is studious and detailed oriented. Enjoying excellent organization skills, Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics.

— This exceptionally gifted human being has humility of spirit, courage of his convictions and a strongly progressive world view in harmony with my own perspectives on government and its relationship to the governed.

— I trust the calibre of the man. I know the great lengths he went in fighting Boko Haram in his state. He did his best to protect the Christian community and rebuilt damaged churches.

— This man understands the value of our national diversity in all of its ramifications, including religious. He possesses the courage to stand up to those who would wreck that diversity and freedom.”

He continued, “I know people have reacted harshly to my selection. They have done so without knowing the man or giving him or me a fair chance.

“The rumour that this is some plot to suppress the Christian community is untrue and unfortunate.

“I can no more suppress the Christians of this nation than I can suppress the Christians in my own household, my very family. You all know my wife is Christian and a pastor. My children are Christians. I can no more disown them and their choice of faith than I can disown myself. As a husband and father to Christian wife and children, hearing such allegations is hurtful.”

He thereafter shared his campaign policies with the Christian leaders, asking for their support.

“We must move the nation forward more quickly so that hatred and pettiness haven’t a chance to imbed themselves and become the main colours of the fabric of our society.

“My team, Senator Shettima and I have crafted our Action Plan for Nigeria titled Renewed Hope. This agenda is based on the progressive notion that our economy must be recalibrated to ensure better jobs and wages for people. That all are entitled to basic health care and education.

“We will combat hunger and poverty by growing more food and better rewarding farmers for their toil.

“We shall revive our industrial capacity to provide work for our growing urban population and to produce more of the things that we need.

“Where the private sector thrives, we will not attempt to fix what is not broken. Where it falters, government shall lend a hand to keep people employed and the economy vibrant. Where there is a gap, we must fill it so that we more fully employ our idle workforce and productive capacity.

“We must better tend to the poor, vulnerable and elderly by strengthening the social safety net.

“We shall end the fuel subsidy because it has become an unproductive policy favouring an elite that needs no favours while giving the people precious little. Funds that were previously used for the subsidy will be invested in public transportation and other infrastructure, education, and health.

“Let us advance to the economy point where no parent is forced to send their children to bed hungry and no one is fearful that tomorrow will bring more lack and poverty.

“Fiscal power and authority shall be recalibrated to give the states more latitude to better fulfil their mandate of grassroots development and empowerment of people and local communities, This includes assessing each state’s best option regarding a more active role in crime prevention and law enforcement.

“On security, we will not relent until terrorists, kidnappers and criminals quit their malign ways or are completely defeated. We shall augment our security forces and use advanced technology to track and defeat these evil groups,” he added.

In their contributions, Vice Presidential Candidate Shettima, House Speaker Gbajabiamila, Governor Ganduje and Senate Chief Whip Kalu attested to Asíwájú Tinubu’s character and integrity.

They said he usually places merit and competence above any other factor in choosing who to work with and he is always moved to act in the best interest of the country.

Tinubu Media Office
Tunde Rahman
November 16, 2022

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