Drama is playing out in Ebonyi state as a Federal High sitting in Owerri, Imo State, has restrained Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi and his panel from probing the former Secretary to the Ebonyi State Government, Prof Bernard Odoh.
This followed an exparte motion filed by Odoh against the governor and the seven members of the panel of enquiry.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is also joined as first respondent.
Odoh asked the court to mandate the anti-graft agency to probe Governor Umahi, himself and others named in a petition he wrote the Commission, alleging financial crimes relating to the 2016 N2bn Agric fund given to Ebonyi State Government by the Central Bank to disburse to interested farmers.
Odoh served as SSG during Umahi’s first tenure, but resigned over irreconcilable differences between him and the governor.
Umahi had instituted a panel of inquiry to probe the loan disbursement, after accusing Odoh in a live broadcast of misappropriating the fund.
But Odoh, who was the Chairman of an Executive Council Committee that provided guidance for the loan disbursement, denied the allegations.
Odoh also rejected the panel of enquiry, which he claimed was made up of appointees and cronies of Governor Umahi.
In Suit no: FHC/OW/CS/54/2020 which was filed on June 1st 2020, has the EFCC and Ebonyi State Governor as first and second respondents respectively.
Others joined in the suit include : Hon Justice Chris Eze, Chairman of the panel, Mr Emeka Nwode, Secretary of the probe panel and Bishop Onyeuwaoma Umoke, member.
Others are: HRH Raymond Iyioku, Egenti Okwuegbu, Monday Ikpor and Austin Iowo, all members of the panel of enquiry.
Odoh had prayed the court to grant him leave to bring application for Judicial Review (Order of Mandamus) compelling the EFCC to carry out its statutory duty as stipulated in the EFCC establishment act by investigating the governor and any other persons involved in his petition on the financial crimes relating to the N2bn CBN Agric loan.
He also sought for a restraining order against the Governor and members of the panel of enquiry from probing him pending the hearing and determination of the application.
After listening to the Plaintiff’s (Odoh) Counsels, Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim granted the reliefs sought.
“That leave of this Honourable Court is granted to the Applicant to bring application for Judicial Review (Order of Mandamus) compelling the 1st Respondent (EFCC) to carry out her Statutory duties as provide for under sections 1(2) and 6 (b) (h) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(Establishment) 2004, by investigating the Applicant, 2nd Respondent (Ebonyi Governor) and any other persons involved in the petition Of the Applicant on the financial crimes relating to the 2016 N2bn Central Bank of Nigeria loan for Ebonyi State.”
“That the leave granted to the Applicant to bring application for Judicial Review (Order of Mandamus) shall operate as a stay of all proceedings and restraining the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th defendants from either by themselves or through their agents or staff or workmen Or cohorts from inviting or summoning the Plaintiff for purpose of investigating and/or sitting in determination of the misappropriation of the 2016 N2bn Central Bank of Nigeria Agricultural loan fund for Ebonyi State or any matter relating to same or inviting or summoning the Plaintiff for any other purpose whatsoever pending the determination of the application or originating summons,” Justice Ringim ordered.