The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has petitioned the the National Judicial Council (NJC) and Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, over alleged indiscriminate ex-parte order by Justice Taiwo. O. Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Magu, in the petition, said the ex parte order stopping the ongoing investigation of the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas, over alleged N15bn fraud, including N8bn London-Paris Club refund; N1.15bn contract scam; diversion of N2bn bailout fund for vote buying during the last general elections and laundering of about N1.050bn, was given in bad faith.
No fewer than six top officials of Imo State, including the Accountant-General, Uzoho Casmir had been interrogated by the EFCC.
Casmir was before his appointment, a Director of Finance in Okorocha’s administration.
Okorocha rushed to the Federal High Court, seeking a restraining order against the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the State Security Services (SSS), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau, from investigating him.
But on May 8, 2019, Justice Taiwo asked the EFCC to stay action on Okorocha’s probe, pending the hearing of his motion on notice.
The order reads in part: ”Upon this motion Ex-parte dated and filed on the 30th day of April, 2019 praying for the following reliefs.
“An order directing the respondents by themselves, their servants, agents, privies or officers to stay all action in connection with the subject matter of this suit pending the hearing and determination of the Originating Motion on notice.”
However, the EFCC boss found the ex-parte order a deliberate attempt to stall investigation into Okorocha’s eight years administration in Imo.
The petition said in part: “The commission respectively requests Your Lordship to reassign the the above stated cases (four cases involving Saraki and Okorocha) and all other cases pending before Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo in which it is involved to other judges of your Lordship’s court.
“This application has become very necessary because of the commission’ slack of confidence in His Lordship’s impartiality to dispense justice in any matter concerning it.
“The commission is conducting investigation on allegations of corrupt practices by the Senate President, Olubukola Abubakar Saraki while he was the Executive Governor of Kwara State and also as the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“It is also investigating Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the outgoing Executive Governor of Imo State for the same allegations of corrupt practices as the governor of the state.
“Despite the established legal principle which has received judicial pronouncements in a host of cases, particularly the cases of Orji Uzor Kalu v. Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of Anambra State v. UBA, Justice Taiwo in all the four suits by Saraki and Okorocha restrained the commission (among others) from performing its statutory functions of investigating them pending the determination of the Originating Summons on Notice.
“Particularly more worrisome is that the said orders were made ex-parte contrary to the acclaimed judicial deprecation of abuse of ex-parte orders by the courts and Rule 3.5 of the Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states that: ‘A judicial officer must avoid the power of issuing interim injunctions, ex parte.”