By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI—Former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, yesterday, failed to appear before the Justice Benjamin Iheka-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Contracts.
When the matter, JUD/CICA/2M/2020, was called up, his counsel, Mr. C Osondu, told the commission that his client could not attend the day’s sitting because of a national assignment.
“My Lord, I got a call this morning, informing me that the witness (Okorocha) would not be available today as a result of a national assignment,” Osondu said.
When the commission sought to know, who exactly called him, Osondu said: “It was Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, the son in-law of Senator Rochas Okorocha.”
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Apparently not too comfortable with what was playing out, Justice Iheka said: “The commission adjourned this matter to today (yesterday) at your instance. Again, you are asking for another adjournment.
“The commission is very willing to stand down this matter to enable you (Okorocha’s counsel) go outside this courtroom to confer with your client or your source (Uche Nwosu), to know why your client is not before the commission.
“Let me again reiterate the stand of this commission that nobody is being tried here. We are only interested in getting at the truth about what happened within the period under review and we expect counsel on all sides to assist the commission in getting at the truth.
“Let me also say that despite some media reports and misrepresentations in the social media about the proceedings of this commission, I am very determined to satisfy my conscience and God in line with the oath I took as a judicial officer.”
Iheka, thereafter, stood down the matter at 10.50am to enable Okorocha’s counsel go outside the courtroom and make calls to his client or his son in-law, to find out if his absence was a deliberate attempt to avoid the commission or truly as a result of national assignment and when he would be free to appear.
When hearing resumed at 10.59am, Osondu told the commission that he was unable to reach either Okorocha or Nwosu and pleaded with the commission for what he called “a very short adjournment.”
In granting the application, Justice Iheka reminded Osondu that “this is not a conventional court and we have very limited time to conclude and submit our report.”
Iheka said he would oblige Okorocha’s counsel another opportunity to ensure that his client appears and thereafter, adjourned the matter to March 16, 2020.
In another development, when the former Commissioner of Health, Dr. Angela Uwakwem, mounted the witness box yesterday, she handed over some documents, which the commission previously directed her to produce.
The documents were accepted as exhibits and thereafter, Justice Iheka said that “since the commission would like to critically study the documents with a view to asking questions where necessary, it would not be expedient to discharge the witness (Uwakwem) at this point.”
The matter was later adjourned to March 10, 2020. Hearing continues.