A high court in Owerri has ordered “final and absolute” forfeiture of contested properties linked to former governor Rochas Okorocha to the Imo state government.
The properties are listed on 46 pages of the state government white paper on recovery of lands and properties belonging to Imo state.
The white paper from a judicial commission of inquiry on landed property, led by Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe, recommends that all properties listed on pages 226 to 272 be forfeited to the state.
Justice Fred Njemanze, sitting as a vacation judge and due for retirement on Wednesday, August 11, ruled that Okorocha failed to give concrete and verifiable reasons why a final and absolute forfeiture order should not be given in favour of Imo state.
Okorocha has said through his counsel that he would appeal the judgment.
His counsel faulted the judgment, saying he had raised a preliminary objection to the fact Okorocha had filed around 47 cases in various courts going back to 2019 challenging the takeover of his property.
Among the property forfeited were East High Academy, Eastern Palm University, Ogboko; Royal Spring Palm Hotels and Apartments, IBC staff quarters said to have been illegally acquired for the purpose of Rochas Foundation College, Owerri magistrate quarters, Orlu road/cooperative office/Girls Guide allegedly converted to private use housing market square, Kilimanjaro eatery.
Others are Public building plot B/2 Otamiri South Extension Layout given to the ministry of women affairs for establishing a skills acquisition centre for women, allegedly acquired for the benefit of Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha’s all-in stall, Aba road, Plot P5, Naze residential layout, initially part of Primary School Management Board but now annexed to All-In stall, Aba Road, belonging to Nkechi Okorocha, and all other properties contained from pages 226 to 272 of the government white paper on the recommendation of the judicial commission of inquiry into land administration in Imo state from June 2006 to May 2019.
The judge asked those who had purchased such properties to approach the court to prove their titles.
Justice Nkemanze had on the 26th of February 2021 given an interim order of forfeiture following an application brought by Louis Alozie, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on behalf of the state government.
But Maduabuchi, who spoke to newsmen at the court premises on Monday, said that the presiding judge had at the last adjourned date said that the counsel would be in court on Tuesday to adopt the preliminary objection to the case.
He said, “We were here on Tuesday when we argued the objections on the processed filed by the Imo state government
The judge said he was reserving his ruling and we left. There was no particular date fixed. He said when it’s ready he will inform us.
“That was on Tuesday, but on Wednesday, Chief Eddy Onyema, one of my colleagues, called me that he had a text message that we are supposed to be here on Friday to adopt the main issues in the matter. It was perplexing because Mr. Alozie on Tuesday had asked the court to allow us to adopt our various processes so that he can deliver a judgement of ruling if been be.
“The judge said that he was not interested in any adoption. He said he only wanted to deal with the preliminary objection.
“On Wednesday a message was sent by the registrar that our case will be coming up on Friday for adoption. So that means that as of 6/8/ we had not adopted our issues. So as of Friday, the court did not sit because they told us the judge was indisposed and we left.
“That was when we had an argument about whether to come on Monday or Tuesday because of the sit-at-home order. So I arrived today. But it was a surprise that my colleague came to my hotel that not only the court sat, the judge dismissed my preliminary objection and made the orders absolute.”