From Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
An Owerri High Court on Tuesday has ruled in favour of the state government for the forfeiture of the Royal Springs Hotels and Apartments at Akanchawa Road, Owerri, owned by Mrs Nkechi Okorocha, the wife of ex-governor and Senator Rochas Okorocha.
The lead counsel to Mrs Okorocha, Oba Maduabuchi, has condemned the judgement which he described as unfortunate and surprising.
Maduabuchi, while addressing reporters shortly after he arrived at court, said he was surprised that the hearing delivering the judgement was later allowed to hold on Monday contrary to a Tuesday agreement.
‘I’m baffled. At court on Friday, a text message came from the judge that he would deliver his ruling on Monday or Tuesday. So because of the sit-at-home order by IPOB, we agreed [for] Tuesday. I was surprised when my colleague rushed into the room and told me that they have delivered a ruling, not just a ruling but a judgment,’ Maduabuchi said.
‘We had earlier on Tuesday argued the objections I raised on the processes filled by the Imo Government. The judge said he reserved his ruling. When a ruling is reserved, it means that no particular date is fixed; but when it’s ready, parties are informed,’ he said.
The forfeited properties are contained on 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.
Delivering his judgement, Justice Fred Njemanze, who was sitting as a vacation judge, said that Okorocha’s counsel failed to provide concrete and verifiable reasons why a final and absolute forfeiture order should not be given in favour of the Imo state government.
The judge also noted that the suit filed against the state government by Okorocha’s counsel was not properly filed. He also described it as a surplusage, a term in law that 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.
Senator Okorocha was arrested by the police a few months ago when he forcibly attempted to break into the Royal Spring Hotel.