Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: I Spent My Money To Run Abia For Six Months, Orji Kalu Tells Court
A former governor of Abia State and the lawmaker representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, said he spent his personal money to run the state for six months.
Senator Kalu, who was accused of stealing N7.6billion while he served as governor between 1999 and 2007, insisted that the state had no such fund during his tenure.
He stated this on Tuesday while giving his testimony at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, shortly after his counsel, Professor Awa Kalu, led in evidence Senator Kalu who took the witness box.
No Money For Diesel?
The former governor denied the allegations brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“Abia State doesn’t have such amount,” he told the court, adding, “Even the day I was leaving, we borrowed money to pay salaries. Abia State didn’t have even a billion naira in any account at the time I was governor.”
“The monthly allocation of Abia State when I took over in June 1999 was N168 million. It was averaging between N168 million and N172 million monthly.
“The first month that I came in, there was even no money to buy diesel. I spent my own money to run the state for six months,” Senator Kalu.
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To support his testimony, the former governor also spoke about the difficulties he encountered in running the state with allocations from the Federal Government.
He said, “In the year 2000, monthly allocation was between N170 million and N189 million. In 2001, it came to about N302 million to about N380 million. I can recollect in 2002, it was almost the same and in 2003 when the revenue allocation was changed, we were having about N400 million.
“The highest money I got as governor came from 2004 when we had about N1 billion and from that time up till May 2007 before I left, what we had was N1.6 billion.
“Throughout my stay in office, I never owed salary and pension. When I took over as governor and before I left, we moved the revenue allocation up to N500 million. It was from this that we were able to do a lot of things.”
The former governor, however, claimed that he gave former President Olusegun Obasanjo the sum of 100 million Naira after he was released from prison in 1998.
He also alleged that he gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the sum of N500 million when it was formed in 1998.
I Was Beaten Up Thoroughly
In response to questions about his line of business, the former governor who is the Chief Whip of the Senate told the court that he had been a successful businessman before venturing into politics.
He said, “I was running a group of companies under Slok Nigeria Ltd and I have a big furniture factory in Maiduguri. I was also trading in cows. The cows were coming from Chad to Umuahia. I also had a veritable oil factory in Aba supplying to people in Kano and Maiduguri.
“I was also into shipping activities with major oil companies. We also have a very big corn farm in the East and Bauchi.
“We were a major shareholder before another shareholder bought off First Bank. In 1994, the then Hallmark Bank had a problem and I later bought majority stake in the bank. We also had major interests in banks in DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the then Sudan before crisis set in.”
Besides all of these, the former governor disclosed that he deals in buying and selling of property, stressing that he provided the information in statements he made to the EFCC.
“When I learnt they were looking for me, I called Ibrahim Lamorde that I was in the United States and that I will show up upon my return to the country,” he told the court.
The lawmaker added, “But when I returned to Nigeria, they were waiting for me at the airport and whisked me away to their office.
“After I was beaten up thoroughly by police officers, I asked them what was my offence and they told me I have been insulting President Obasanjo. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde later came to apologise to me.”
After testifying as the sole witness in his defence, the former governor closed his case.
Further hearing in the matter was adjourned until Wednesday when the second defendant would testify.
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