Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, has been restrained from investigating the former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Bernard Odoh, through the N2billion Agricultural loan probe panel set up his administration.
The restraining order followed an ex-parte motion filed by Odoh at the Federal High Court and the seven members of the panel of inquiry set up by Umahi to probe the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for farmers in Ebonyi state. Apart from the governor and the members of the panel, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was also joined as the first respondent in the suite.
It would be recalled that the former SSG had earlier petitioned the EFCC alleging discrepancies in the release of the N2billion received by the state government on behalf of farmers as Agricultural Loan Fund. Odoh had claimed that out of the N2billion facility, the governor released just N1billion, stressing that as co-chairman of the disbursement with a CBN director, he did not go beyond supervisory functions over the committee.
But, incensed by a public letter in which his former SSG alleged that his administration was pursuing psychedelic projects while the state slid down on the national poverty and ease of doing business indices, Umahi had threatened to set up an executive committee panel to probe the fund committee. Believing that the probe panel was a witch-hunt to smear his reputation, Odoh approached the court, praying that the EFCC should be mandated to probe Umahi and others named in his earlier petition to the anti-graft commission.
According to information contained in the motion in Suit no: FHC/OW/CS/54/2020, which was filed on Monday June 1, 2020, in addition to the first and second respondents (EFCC and Umahi), others joined as respondents include, Justice Chris Eze, (panel chairman), Emeka Nwode (panel secretary), Bishop Onyeuwaoma Umoke, HRH Raymond Iyioku, Egenti Okwuegbu, Monday Ikpor and Austin Iowo, all members of the panel of inquiry.
Odoh also asked the court for leave to apply for order of mandamus compelling the EFCC to execute its statutory mandate contained in the EFCC Act by investigating the governor and any other persons involved in his petition, alleging financial crimes relating to the N2bn CBN loan.
Odoh also prayed the court for an order restraining Umahi and members of the probe panel from investigating him pending the hearing and determination of the application. Responding to the motion as moved by the plaintiff´s counsel, Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim, granted the prayers.
The Federal High Court also granted an order of stay of proceedings and restrained the second to eighth respondents from inviting or summoning the plaintiff for the purposes 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 pending the determination of the application or originating summons.