Former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha has described as absurd, an order of Imo State High Court for permanent forfeiture of properties belonging to him, noting that the judge couldn’t have delivered judgment in a case he never heard.
Recall that a state High Court in Owerri, earlier today ordered the final and absolute forfeiture of Royal Palm Springs Hotel and other properties said to belong to Okorocha and other members of his family.
The forfeited properties are contained in pages 226 to 272 of the Imo state Government white paper report by a Judicial Commission of Enquiry on Recovery of Lands and other related matters.
According to the ruling by Justice Fred Njemanze, who was sitting as a vacation judge, Okorocha’s counsel failed to give concrete and verifiable reasons why a final and absolute forfeiture order should not be given in favour of the Imo state government.
Justice Njemanze had added that the suit filed against Imo state Government by Okorocha’s counsel was not properly filed.
He also described it as a surplusage, a term in law which means a useless statement completely irrelevant to a matter.
Justice Njemanze maintained that the white paper gazette by the Imo state Government is a legal binding document, concluding that there was no concrete reason before it why the forfeiture should not be made absolute and final, hence the Imo state Government can go ahead and do whatever it deems fit to do with the properties.
As for persons who might have made purchase on such properties, Justice Njamanze said they are at liberty to approach the court to prove their titles.
However, reacting to the judgment in a statement by his media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha said the judgement is a miscarriage of justice.
In the statement titled, ‘Justice Fred Njemanze of High Court Owerri gave judgement in a matter he never heard, less than 24 hours to his retirement today, August 10, 2021,” Okorocha said the judge gave the judgement as a parting gift to the state government.
He vowed to approach relevant agencies “to investigate the judgement and prove him or us right or wrong.”
The statement said, “On Tuesday, August 3, 2021, Justice Njemanze sat. The lawyers in the matter argued on the preliminary objection. Chief Obah Maduabuchi, SAN, was Okorocha’s Lawyer and Chief Louis Alozie (SAN) was for the Imo State Government.
“Justice Njemanze reserved ruling on the Preliminary objection and told the lawyers that they would be Communicated on the date. He also told other lawyers who had applied to be joined for their clients, to wait until after the ruling on the preliminary objection.
“On Wednesday, August 4, 2021, the Court Clerk sent text messages to the lawyers that the Court would sit on Friday, August 6, 2021 for the lawyers to adopt their processes, instead of the expected ruling on the Preliminary objection.
“On the Friday, August 6, 2021, Lawyers were in Court. Justice Njemanze did not come. He did not sit that day. Lawyers left and those involved left.
“That is to say, on the Friday, August 6, 2021, neither the expected ruling on the Preliminary objection was given, nor the adoption of the processes as Contained in the text messages of Wednesday, August 4, 2021.
“On Monday, August 9, 2021, while lawyers in the matter were expecting to hear from the Court on the issue of date, the news came that Justice Njemanze had given Judgement in a substantive suit he never heard and not also on the Preliminary objection, even when lawyers had not adopted their processes.
“In the Contentious forfeiture Order Justice Njemanze gave on February 24, 2021, only five properties were directly linked to Okorocha and family, including Eastern Palm University and Royal Spring Palm hotel.
“But, both Justice Njemanze and the Imo State government had talked about pages 226 to 272 of the aberration called the WHITEPAPER, as Containing Okorocha’s Properties. This is bare blackmail. It is not true.
“We have meticulously gone through pages 226 to 272 of their WHITEPAPER. The pages contained layouts and estates and none belonged to Okorocha and the family.
“Some of those who own these properties in the interim forfeiture order are also in various courts and like we said, some of them had also applied to Justice Njemanze to be joined. But Justice Njemanze told them to wait until he ruled on the preliminary objection. But he went ahead to give Judgement in the substantive matter he never heard. This is absurd.
“In the Contentious Judgement, he gave absolute forfeiture order on the properties in question, in a matter he never heard and which matters on them, have been going on in Courts of Competent Jurisdiction. And in less than 24 hours to his retirement today being Tuesday, August 10, 2021.
“This is the first time we are hearing that a Judge could give Judgement in a matter or case he never heard. This is not good for the Society and for the judicial system.”