The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned presidential hopeful and former Imo governor 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.
The courtroom was already filled to capacity as of 9 am, with several others standing as they await the commencement of the proceedings, Channels TV reported.
Okorocha 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 All Progressives Congress (APC) and five companies to steal from public coffers. But Okorocha 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 scheduled arraignment comes three days after he lost the bid to be admitted to 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 last Tuesday following a mild 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.