The efforts by Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi to probe an alleged N2 billion agric loan fraud involving the Former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Bernard Odoh has been halted.
This followed the ruling of a Federal High Court in Owerri, Imo State on Friday, which restrained the panel set up by Umahi to probe the alleged fraud from going ahead with the assignment.
The court gave the ruling in an ex-parte motion filed by Odoh against Umahi and the seven members of the panel of enquiry.
Also joined in the suit as first respondent was the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Odoh prayed the court to order the anti graft agency to probe Governor Umahi and others named in a petition he wrote alleging financial crimes relating to the 2016 Agric loan borrowed from the Central Bank by the state government.
He was the former SSG in Umahi’s first term but resigned his appointment in 2018. He had cited certain irreconcilable differences with the governor as the reason for his resignation.
In an open letter last month, he criticised certain policies of Umahi led government of Ebonyi State.
In his response, Umahi at a live broadcast accussed Odoh of misappropriation of the N2 billion agric loan the state government borrowed in 2016.
The governor, thereafter, set up a panel of inquiry to probe the loan disbursement.
Odoh immediately denied the allegation that he misappropriated the loan.
In a counter statement, Odoh, who chaired the Executive Council Committee that provided guidance for the loan disbursement, said he did not take part in the disbursement on the loan.
He insisted that Governor Umahi and some of the cabinet members were responsible for the misappropriation of the funds.
Odoh, after accusing the panel of bias and rejecting it, went ahead and petitioned the EFCC and prayed it to carry out a holistic forensic probe into the loan management and disbursement.
He also dragged the matter to court and prayed that the EFCC be mandated to probe the loan disbursement.
In addition, he filed an ex parte motion to restrain Umahi and his panel from probing him.
The motion with Suit no: FHC/OW/CS/54/2020 and filed on June 1, 2020, had the EFCC and Umahi 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 urged 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 N2 billion CBN Agric loan.
Mr Odoh 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, the presiding judge, granted the reliefs sought.
The judge held, “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 anyatter relating to same or inviting or summoning the Plaintiff for any other purpose whatsoever pending the determination of the application or originating summons.”