Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday threatened to strike out a criminal charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha.
The judge gave the warning following a complaint by the EFCC counsel, Cosmas Ugwu, that all efforts by the agency to effect service of court processes on Okorocha had been unsuccessful.
The commission filed a 17-count charge of fraud and money laundering against the Imo West senator and six others in February.
Okorocha was to be docked by the EFCC on a 17-count criminal charge. He was governor of Imo State from 2011 to 2019, and presently a senator representing Imo West in the National Assembly.
According to the anti-graft agency, Senator Okorocha is being charged to court over allegation of conspiracy with his cronies, including a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and five companies, to fritter the sum of N2.9 billion public funds belonging to the Imo State government.
Also to be docked alongside Okorocha are Anyim Nyerere Chinenye, Naphtali International Limited, Perfect Finish Multi Projects Limited, Consolid Projects Consulting Limited, Pramif International Limited, and Legend World Concepts Limited.
At a resumed sitting on Monday, Okorocha was not present in court. The Federal Government through its counsel, Mr. Cosmos Ugwu, told the trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo that he has not been able to see Okorocha and serve him with the charge.
The counsel informed the court that he would continue to make efforts until he succeeds in serving the former governor with the court papers. Subsequently, he applied for another adjournment to enable him do everything within his power to effect service on Okorocha.
However, Justice Ekwo threatened to strike out the N2.9 billion money laundering criminal charge.
The Judge threatened to throw out the charges following the inability of the Federal Government to serve charges on Okorocha as required by law.
The Judge reminded him that same story was told on February 22, when the defendant ought to have taken his plea. Justice Ekwo said categorically that he was not going to continue to take flimsy excuses from the lawyer and would not help him to do his job.
In a short ruling, the Judge granted the request for the second adjournment and warned the government’s lawyer to demonstrate serious nessorelse, the case would be struck out.
“Let me place on record, that this is the second time this flimsy excuse is being made to justify the absence of the 1st defendant (Okorocha) in court to take his plea.
“As the prosecutor, you must demonstrate seriousness in the discharge of your duties. “This is the last adjournment I shall grant in this matter.
“If on the adjourned date, you come up with the same flimsy excuses, I shall have no option than to strike out the charges,” the Judge warned. Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed May 30 for the prosecution to put his house in order