The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned a presidential hopeful and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Okorocha, who currently represents Imo West senatorial district in the National Assembly, was arraigned before Justice Inyang Ekwo on Monday in the nation’s capital.
Channels Television observed that the courtroom was already filled to capacity as of 9am, with several others standing as they await the commencement of the proceedings.
The former governor is being tried on a 17-count charge to the tune of N2.9 billion filed against him by the anti-graft agency.
He was accused of conspiring with others, including a member of the APC and five companies to steal from public coffers, although he has since denied any wrongdoing.
When the proceedings began, the lawmaker took a stand in the dock after which the charges were read to him.
In his response, he pleaded not guilty to the charges. The second defendant in the suit, Anyim Chinenye, as well as the five companies also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Okorocha’s arraignment comes three days after he lost the bid to be admitted on bail, pending the determination of a suit he had instituted against the Federal Government.
He had predicated his bail request on the ground that he was a presidential aspirant, stressing that his political ambition would be jeopardised unless he was granted bail.
But Justice Ekwo, in a brief ruling on Okorocha’s bail application on Friday, said he was not inclined to admit the applicant to bail.
Rather, the judge ordered Okorocha to put the Federal Government on notice to come and defend his detention.
Okorocha has been in EFCC custody since Tuesday last week following a drama that played out when a team of operatives stormed his residence in the Maitama area of Abuja to arrest him.
The team, who insisted that Okorocha must submit himself for arrest or honour a long-standing invitation to their office, later barricaded the residence of the presidential aspirant.
Following a series of drama at the scene, gunshots were heard as the anti-graft agency’s team broke into Okorocha’s house and left with the presidential aspirant to their office.