Uzodinma/Okorocha: Suspect slumps in court, 14 ex-gov’s loyalists get N70m bail

As the raging war between Imo state Governor Hope Uzodinma and his predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, assumed a legal dimension, a mild drama played out at an Owerri Magistrate Court Monday when one of the 14 suspects, Darlington Ibekwe, slumped in the courtroom.

Ibekwe and 13 other loyalists of Okorocha were arraigned for breaking into the sealed estate of the former governor.

They are Obasi Goodluck, Nwaiwu Ndubuisi, Median Ijeoma, Obor Victor, Ucheka Claudin, Sunday Chisom and Ekpendu Peace.

The rest are Steve Asimobi, Ebere Nwokeji, Eberendu Chimechifulam,  Olu Chizoba, Nev F. Raphael and Basil Mba,.

They were accused of conspiring among themselves to disobey a lawful order issued by the state by removing the seal of the state government and entering into the sealed premises of Royal Spring Palm Hotel and Apartments belonging to Okorocha.

Police prosecutor, Omo-Osagie M.A, told the court that Okorocha’s former appointees, Lasbery Okaforanyanwu, Ijeoma Igboanusi and his son in-laws, Uche Nwosu and Dr. Uzoma Anwuka, were at large.

While Ibekwe was accused of publishing a recorded defamatory matter on social media with intent to injure the reputation of the state government and the person of Governor Uzodimma by exposing the latter to hatred, contempt, ridicule and damage his reputation, another accused person – Olu Chizoba – was charged with unlawful possession of double barrel pump action gun without license.

After a six-count charge was read out to the suspects, counsel to the defendants, Eddy Onyema, sought for their bail, assuring they would return to the court for trial.

Onyema, who argued that none of the charges preferred against the defendants was a capital offence, said “worst, some of them are felony. That’s why we’re seeking for their bail.”

But as the presiding magistrate, B. U. Adikaibe, returned to the courtroom for her ruling, Ibekwe slumped but revived by his fellow suspects, who pleaded for water to bring him back on his feet.

And as soon as normalcy returned,  the court instantly ruled by granting all 14 accused persons a N70million bail at N5 million each, a condition the court insisted must be fulfilled before they could regain their freedom.

‘Uzodinma pursuing shadows’

Meanwhile, Senator Okorocha has berated Governor Uzodinma whom he said had abandoned governance and “is now chasing shadows.”

The lawmaker, representing Imo West senatorial district at the National Assembly, said this Monday while addressing his supporters at SPIBAT mansion in Owerri.

Recalling what happened Sunday at the Royal Spring Palm Estate, Owerri, the former governor claimed Uzodinma sent over 1,000 thugs to attack him and his aides.

“The way Governor Hope Uzodinma is going, he may not end well as governor. Insecurity is ravaging all. Over ten houses were burnt in Oguta yesterday. He knows what he is doing. He wants everybody to fear him. Instead of him to face governance and pay salaries and secure the state, he is busy chasing shadows of violence,” Okorocah said.

He called on  the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, to immediately arrest Uzodinma’s Special Adviser on Special Duties, Chinasa Nwaneri, and the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Youth Affairs, Eric Uwakwe, whom he claimed  led the onslaught against him.

The former governor said:  “I immediately call on the Inspector-General of Police to immediately arrest Chinasa Nwaneri and Eric Uwakwe. They are the aides of Governor Hope Uzodinma. They shot my aides and destroyed all my cars. If the police can’t arrest Chinasa Nwaneri who the bad record is known for, they have no right to arrest any citizen of this country. As a senator, I am going to put a formal petition to that effect.”

S/east govs intervene

And in a move to douse tension generated by the squabble, the Southeast Governors’ Forum Monday called on the duo to exercise some restraint.

 A statement by Ebonyi state Governor David Umahi’s Special Adviser on Media, Francis Nwaze, said the forum reached out to the two parties to ceasefire.

 “Southeast Governors’ Forum has waded into the impasse ensuing between Governor Hope Uzodimma and the former Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha.

 “The Chairman of the Forum who is also the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi has already made contacts and assured that the parties to the dispute have agreed to call a truce. He further explained that the leaders of the Southeast were capable of settling their disputes internally instead of washing their linen in the public.

 “He called for calm among the supporters of the two political heavyweights to ensure a timely and amicable resolution of the disagreement within the shortest possible time.

 “The Southeast Governors’ Forum Chairman called on people of Imo State and the South East Zone to go about their normal businesses and shun provocative statements until normalcy is completely restored between the former governor and his successor,” Umahi said.

Group protests, urges Buhari’s intervention

Meanwhile, some pro-democracy groups, Monday, protested the arrest of former governor, Senator Okorocha.

During the protest in Abuja, the groups called on President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to quickly wade in.

 Some of the inscriptions on the placards read “United we stand, divided we fall”, “Gov Uzodima stop the witch hunt, APC means peace , restore peace in Imo APC”, “Rochas we believe, leaders must be respected”, “Rochas is a leader, stop the use of thugs”, “Nigerian Students condemn the attacks on the person of Rochas.”

 They claimed Okorocha’s arrest was part of the grand design to deny the South-east geo political zone the exalted seat of the presidency in the 2023 poll.

Malam Hamza Rahama, who spoke on behalf of the youth speakers, argued that Okorocha’s arrest by armed policemen constitutes a threat to democratic rule in the country.

 “Okorocha is one good material if not the best we have for 2023 after President Muhammadu Buhari, and all this harassment and intimidation is because of the next election of which they believe should he vie for the Presidency, then he remains a threat to them. 

 “Nigerians, especially the common man, will resist all intimidations aimed at truncating Sen. Rochas Okorocha’s Presidential ambition because of their strong belief in his capacity to change their fortunes beyond the lines of tribes and religion,” he said.

 In his own remarks, Mohammed Ibrahim of Arewa Youth Consultative Council (AYCC) condemned the role played by security agents during the arrest.

  “We must publicly condemn the worrisome reports of how men of the Nigeria Police Force attached to the state government House watched as thugs attacked His Excellency, prior to his arrest. 

 “This is an indication that the Imo State Government is having a hidden skeleton on this issue, which must be condemned with the strictest sense. We cannot fold our arms and watch our Security operatives are being used to achieve political aims,” Ibrahim said.

 Also, Comrade Ilefa Peter who spoke on behalf of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Good Governance Forum called on President Buhari and the APC caretaker committee chair, Malam Mala Buni to intervene.

“Okorocha has sacrificed a lot for this party to be left in the hands of his successor to continually play the script of the enemies of South East. It is high time the party came in to end these crises once and for all.

“Governor Hope Uzodima should learn to consolidate on the past gains of his predecessor and work harmoniously for the overwhelming good of Imolites. Government is a continuum, and if truly the party is supreme, our leaders must learn to consolidate on the party’s ideology of fostering peace and unity at all fronts,” said the APC group.

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