At last, after the long drawn legal tussle between the former Governor of Imo state,Senator Rochas Okorocha and the Imo state government over a number of known public properties and based on the report of the panel of enquiry on public properties setup by the shortlived Ihedioha administration, a vacation court presided over by Justice Fred Njemanze yesterday ordered the permanent and absolute forfeiture of Royal Palm Spring hotel and other properties as recorded on pages 26 to 272 of the Imo state government white paper gazette on recovery of lands and properties belonging to Imo state.
In his verdict, the judge held that Senator Rochas Okorocha failed to give concrete and verifiable reasons why a final and absolute forfeiture order should not be given in favour of Imo state government.
Recall that Senator Rochas Okorocha filed a preliminary injunction to stop the final forfeiture citing forceful eviction and that the suit by the Imo state Government was not properly instituted.
However,Justice Njemanze held that the suit filed by Imo state Government was not only properly filed but was also a suplousage, as the white paper gazzette by the Imo state Government is a legal binding document.
Justice Njemanze concluded that, “there is no reason before it why the forfeiture should not be made absolute and final, To this end every property on pages 226 to 272 of the white paper has been forfeited to the Imo state Government and they can do with it whatever they deem fit.”
As for those who had made purchase on such properties the court said they are at liberty to approach the court to prove their titles, however the properties as at today have been returned to the Imo state Government.
Justice Fred Njemanze had on the 26th of February 2021 given an interim order of forfeiture urging Senator Okorocha to approach the court to show cause as to why a final and absolute order of forfeiture should not be given over the properties following an application brought by Mr Louis Alozie, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, on behalf of the state government.
The properties to be forfeited include:
“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’s quarters,
Orlu road/cooperative office/Girls Guide allegedly converted to private use housing market square,
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 one 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 the 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”.
Rochas Okorocha had resisted all attempts to recover illegally acquired properties from him after he stormed one of the facilities with his supporters early this year and was arrested by the Imo police command for trespass.
Barring further appeals by the embattled Senator and his cohorts at Superior Courts, this judgment puts to rest the issue of the many known public properties illegally, fraudulently or forcefully acquired by the former governor.