Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Orji Kalu’s 13-Year-Long Trial To Resume Today

The trial of a former Abia State governor and Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, will resume at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos today.

The trial which had been on for over 13 years was given a fresh fiat by President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, to enable him to return to the court to conclude the case.

Justice Idris was elevated from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal in June 2018. But he continued to hear the case after the President of the Court of Appeal initially granted a fiat for him to do so.

The fiat was granted at the instance of Kalu’s Lawyer, Professor Awa Kalu (SAN) who activated Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, in order to prevent the case from being transferred to another judge to start afresh.

That fiat expired in November 2018.

A copy of a Fresh Fiat sighted by our Judiciary Correspondent, Shola Soyele stated that the trial will now commence on July 22 and will continue from day to day until the trial is concluded.

Kalu is standing trial alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N7.6billion.

 

Background:

On July 31, 2018, Justice Idris dismissed the ‘no-case submissions’ made by Orji Kalu and the other defendants and ordered them to open their defence.

But rather than open their defence, Kalu sought a six-week adjournment to embark on a trip to Germany to have surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

The defendants later challenged the jurisdiction of the judge to hear the case, arguing that he was no longer a judge of the high court.

They also filed an application seeking a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of their appeals.

Justice Idris dismissed both.

When Kanu did not subsequently make himself available for his trial, Justice Idris revoked his bail.

The judge also ordered him to submit himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return to the country.

On January 23, 2019, when the case last came up in court, the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), complained about Kalu’s repeated absence from court, alleging that the former governor, then a senator-elect, was taking the court for a ride. The counsel also noted that despite the court’s order, Kanu did not turn himself into the EFCC.

“He (Kalu) kept on campaigning for his senatorial ambition, slapping the court in the face; his attitude is unbecoming,” Jacobs said while urging Justice Idris to continue the hearing in Kalu’s absence.

But in response, Justice Idris said he could not proceed with the case as a second fiat given to him by the Appeal Court President had expired in November 2018.

We Will Do All To Support Local Producers, Manufacturers – Osinbajo

We Will Do All To Support Local Producers, Manufacturers – Osinbajo The Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, has again said that the quest for development of local capacity is a panacea for rapid economic growth.

He made this assertion during the Southeast maiden edition of Nationwide Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Clinic held at Aba, after the media launch in Abuja on Tuesday.

Using as an analogy, the story President Muhammadu Buhari once told him about the importance of taking care of people “who do the things that make us comfortable”, the Vice President observed “it is important to pay attention to MSMES”.

“We will spend time to ensure that we give those who produce locally all the support that we can give, and that is why we are doing this clinics,” he said.

The Vice President went round the stands of all the agencies at the Aba MSMES Clinic and also those of several businesses and local manufacturers, all of whom were obviously elated at the Federal Government’s gesture to re-orient the relationship between them and the agencies.

He said that “you can’t do much for manufacturing without coming to Aba,” and adding that Aba traders, artisans, tailors, shoemakers and others “are the bedrock of our economy.”

According to him, the Nigerian government agenda is to create sustainable platform through its relevant agencies that would ensure that businesses in the country that produce locally made goods are given adequate support and wider spectrum to grow.

yemi-osinbajo
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo examining some footwears made in Aba

He urged the relevant government agencies to see themselves as facilitators of the businesses and remove bottlenecks that are often reported when enterprises have something to do with the agencies.

Commenting at the Clinic, the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okpezie Ikpeazu, who accompanied the Vice President said “with the visit of the Acting President to Abia today, the story of Aba traders will change. The visit of the Acting President is a testimony that something new is happening here.”

Professor Osinbajo who has since returned to Abuja, was also accompanied by the Industry, Trade and Investment Minister, Dr. Okey Enelamah, among several other senior government officials.

The Office of the Special Adviser on Economic Matters in the Presidency devised the idea of a Clinic to bridge the gap between medium and small scale businesses and government agencies such as Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC; Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON; National Agency for Food & Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC; Bank of Industry, BOI; Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS; Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC; and others.

The Clinic is meant to bring together all those agencies in one spot and at appointed times across the country to attend to the needs, questions and requests of people doing business.

Abia Govt. Promises Prudent Utilization Of Paris Club Refund

Abia Govt. Promises Prudent Utilization Of Paris Club RefundAbia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has assured Abia residents that no amount of threat or intimidation will make him misappropriate part of the Paris Club inflow meant for payment of salaries.

Speaking at a grand civic reception by the Ohanze Isiahia community in Obingwa Local Government Area, the Governor said that no amount of threat of strike by the labour union will make him change his mind.

“I am here to let you know that, no kobo from the funds will be unaccounted for, and in line with this commitment, to make good my promise I want to announce to you that this government will begin the payment of Abia State staff salaries through individual cheques to ensure that ghost workers are checked.

“I assure you that the 50% of the Paris Club refund must be used to pay salaries in line with the instruction of the Federal government.”

Meanwhile, Governor Ikpeazu has assured the Ohanze people that their secondary school will benefit from school renovations that will soon commence in the state.

He also provided 1.5 million naira for Ohanze Congress to be used for school fee of indigent youths, who are in tertiary institution.

Gov. Ikpeazu Says Christmas Is Season Of Giving

Gov. Ikpeazu Says Christmas Is Season Of GivingThe Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has called on Abians and Christians to remember the teachings of Christ which command Christians to love one another.

In his Christmas message to Abians, the Governor called on Christians to pray for peace in Abia and Nigeria as the world celebrates the birth of Christ, who is the Savior of mankind.

“As Christians, we must remember the teachings of Jesus Christ which calls us to love one another and also to pray for our leaders.

It is important we see this season as an opportunity to reach out to the less privileged, the needy and also to offer help to the helpless.

As Abians and Nigerians, we need love to strengthen our relationship with one another, this is the greatest commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ikpeazu Impressed With Abia Polls, Advocates Electronic Voting

 Ikpeazu Impressed With Abia Polls, Advocates Electronic VotingAbia state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has advocated the use of electronic voting systems in the state for future elections.

He said this after commending the conduct of the electoral process of the local government election which took place on December 21.

Although reports from officials said there seemed to be lack of enthusiasm on the path of voters, asides other hitches, the governor believes the turnout was rather impressive because of the strategy put in place by the electoral umpire in the state.

“Some of the people you see around may have voted, it does not mean when you see them outside the polling booth attending to their businesses, that indicates that the turnout was not impressive.

“I think people are voting and going about their lawful duties, the method adopted by ABSIEC enables one to vote at his/her will and not to cluster in one place.

“I rather commend that going forward, even as we are voting, we can also attend to our legitimate businesses, and if we imbibe electronic voting system it will be better”.

The opposition candidate on the other hand, described the conduct of the election as a scam and called for the cancellation of the entire exercise because according to them, “ABSIEC did not adequately prepare to give Abians a free and fair election”.

A Chairmanship candidate, Nkemakolam Ogene, blamed the police and electoral umpire for the lapses, such as delay of electoral materials and even some voters began to lament that they had already been disenfranchised.

The police however countered the claims, stating that there were adequate security and personnel on ground but the people were foot dragging and slowing down the process.

Lamenting, Ogene said: “ABSIEC fixed a date for this election, they are supposed to be prepared, it is a shame to note that they are bringing the materials now and the time is about three o’clock and election is ending by four o’clock.

“Are we going to cast our votes in the night when our elders, are tired and have gone home, the only explanation given by the ABSIEC official for this gross misconduct is that he does not have adequate security but we were told that adequate security was made for this election and the official that is supposed to come here is saying that from the local government headquarters to the polling booth, there is no provision of security to escort the materials.

“So I am saying that the election should be cancelled and rescheduled because this is not an election”.

Police Commissioner, Oyebade Adeleye, refuting the statement said:

“I went there personally, I was at Ubakala, Umuahia South LGA and the recordings made can testify to it.

“The people were foot dragging and signal and body language suggest that they did not want to go on with the exercise.

“I did try to talk to them that there is security; so, that version of inadequate police is not correct,” he added.

Amidst collation of results and call by the opposition to cancel the exercise, the people are anxiously waiting to see where the tides would rest.

LG Polls: Abia Gov. Meets With Inter-Party Advisory Council

okezie ikpeazu LG Polls: Abia Gov. Meets With Inter-Party Advisory CouncilThe Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu has challenged members of the Abia State chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) to join forces with his government to develop the state.

Ikpeazu made request at the Government House, Umuahia, when he received members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council.

The Governor expressed shock that IPAC has not been getting on well with the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) and promised to engage the chairman of the commission to carry them along in their activities.

Ikpeazu promised to provide subvention to all the parties involved in the December local government polls as well as encourage women to participate in the elections.

He regretted that the desperation of some politicians has adversely affected the ideals of democracy in the state.

“My view on the use of transition committee chairmen in running the local governments is that it is definitely playing a negative role in deepening democracy in the country.

“And Abia State has lost a lot in terms of experience in the last 10 years that elections have not been conducted into the councils. Therefore, the decision to embark on local government election is the right thing to do.

“As stakeholders you have a lot to contribute towards the development of the state, which will lag behind except there is peaceful coexistence.

“I appreciate this delegation for the sentiments towards the development of the state and in my capacity as your governor I promised to assist you. This is because this administration’s policy is to engage strategic and critical stakeholders from time to time,” the Governor said.

Meanwhile, the chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council, Emeka Okafor, pleaded with the Governor to prevail on the chairman of Abia State Electoral Commission to drastically reduce the fees payable by the political party aspirants to enable them participate actively in the December 17, 2016, local government elections.

He said: “We are here to identify with you, our governor on the good works you are doing in the state.

“The duty of the Inter-Party Advisory Council is to work with the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission to enthrone fairness, objectivity in the electoral process.

“We are optimistic that the desire of all Abians to ensure their votes count during the LG Polls would be a reality.”

On his part, state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Donatus Nwankpa, promised the Governor that APC in the state would ensue peace and nonviolent polls.

“Abia State is our own. All we need is credibility on the part of the electoral umpire in the conduct of the local government election.

“We thank you, Governor Ikpeazu, for the promise to urge the ABSIEC Chairman to reduce the fees payable by parties, it would go a long way to resolve a lot of issues,” he said.

Sacked Anambra Citizens In Abia Seek Governor Obiano’s Intervention

Willie-Obiano-Anambra-Governor-1Indigenes of Anambra State living in Abia State are seeking Governor Willie Obiano’s intervention in the restoration of their jobs in Abia State Civil Service six years after they were sacked.

A delegation from the Association of Anambra State Development Union in Aba on Friday met with Governor Obiano where they tabled their plea.

They are asking the Governor to intervene and secure their reinstatement, as their sack was merely on the basis that they were non-indigenes.

The president of the association, Mr Samuel Okolo, who commended the Governor for his visionary and dynamic leadership especially in the areas of security, infrastructural development and prompt payment of workers’ salaries decried the anguish of the affected workers.

He asked Governor Obiano to reach out to his Abia State counterpart for resolution.

The Anambra Governor received his guests at the Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia, where Mr Okolo presented tokens of appreciation to him for what he called exemplary and dynamic leadership since he took office on March 17, 2014 especially in the areas of security, infrastructural development and workers’ welfare.

Speaking further on some major issues, the president of the union formally invited the Governor to the Anambra Day Cultural Celebration in Aba.


Governor Willie Obiano frowned at the development, pointing out that many workers of other states origin abound in Anambra State Civil Service.

He demanded a comprehensive list of the affected workers for further discussion with Abia State Governor, Mr Okezie Ikpeazu.

According to the association, a few of the workers have been reinstated, but majority of them have been abandoned.

Hopes are high now that with Governor Obiano’s promises of meeting with Governor Ikpeazu to resolve the issue.

Governor Ikpeazu Inspects Waste Dumpsites In Umuahia

Okezie Ikpeazu, Waste, UmuahiaThe Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has made an inspection visit to some refuse disposal sites within the Umuahia, the state’s capital.

The Governor said the visit was to ensure strict adherence of the roll-out policy and template for environmental waste management in the state in southeast Nigeria.

He expressed displeasure with the indiscriminate waste dumpsites in the Umuahia metropolis.

Governor Ikpeazu said he had decided to put up an intervention to make the waste disappear, as trucks were already seen carting away waste from the streets.

Also during the unscheduled inspection, he engaged the supervisor of the environmental intervention, Otah Ukariwo, in a conversation on the need to keep Abia Sate clean at all times and to clearly understand if there were challenges.

Governor Ikpeazu promised that the state government would support the effort and put all the necessary machinery in place to realise its goal.

On his part, Mr Ukariwo hinted that they have cleared the debris at the Health Centre road, Zone Nine and other areas.

He assured the Governor of an effective waste management in Ehimiri and the World Bank Housing Estate from 5:00 a.m. local time every Sunday or Saturday.

Governor Ikpeazu also took time out to inspect the road rehabilitation at the New Conference Centre at the Government layout in the state’s capital.

Ikpeazu Assesses Achievements In Road Construction

Abia, Ikpeazu, FAulks RoadThe Abia State Governor, Mr Okezie Ikpeazu, on Tuesday said that despite the recent political upheavals, he has been able to leave a land mark in various sectors especially in road construction at Aba and across the three senatorial zones of the state.

He said this while speaking during a reception held in his honor by the entire traditional rulers of Abia state made up of 732 autonomous communities at Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia.

According to the Governor, Abia State residents, irrespective of political affiliations, should join hands to move the state to an enviable position, where trade and commerce thrive for economic development.

The Governor said that despite the opposition, he would ensure that the pillar of unity in the state is not destroyed and promised that the state, under his watch, will be united and peaceful.

He commended the traditional rulers for their belief in equity, justice and fairness hinting that the honor done to him is a confirmation that his mandate is divine.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Council of Ndieze and Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Eberechi Dick reminded all politicians to allow peace reign as the traditional institution would ensure that Abia South enjoys their maximum tenure as enjoyed by Abia North and Abia Central.

Ikpeazu’s Governorship: Appeal Court Nullifies High Court Judgement

okezie ikpeazu, Abia State, and the appeal court judgmentAn Appeal Court in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, has ruled that the removal of the Abia State Governor, Mr Okezie Ikpeazu, by a lower court was null and void.

The court on Thursday set aside the judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, sacking Mr Ikpeazu over allegations of  poor documentation.

In the lead judgement read by Justice Ibrahim Bdliya the Appeal Court insisted that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and that any decision that flowed from it was null and void.

The five-man panel stressed that the law has laid down principles by which a case could be instituted.

Explaining that the process was wrong, Justice Bdilya said that on the motion which led to the appeal, three people indicated themselves as lawyers and signed the document while the law says only an identifiable legal practitioner can do so.

He added that it was not the business of the court to embark on a voyage of helping a litigant decide who filed his case.

Justice Bdilya said:”As such, the lower court erred in its deciding for the litigants,” he insisted.

“To this end the lower court lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter because the initiation process of the suit was not properly done.

“Therefore any decision taken by it flowing from that suit is null and void”.

The Appeal Court ruled on three out of six appeals filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, under which Governor Ipeakzu won the governorship election.

According to the court, the issues are identical and as such it adopts the ruling of the previous judgement.

While reading the decision of the court, Justice Bdliya insisted that the evidence raised by the faulty originating summons could not have been easily resolved because they were contentious and hostile.

He said that an amendment could not have cured a faulty originating summons.

Explaining the court’s decision further he said that the orders made by the lower court could only be valid if the two issues raised were already decided to be valid.

“The lower trial judge was not right in his findings and decisions,” he insisted.

On whether the lower court delved into the main issue in deciding an interlocutory injunction, the Appeal Court said it was imperative to examine the record of the appeal.

The Justice also said that his findings showed that the outcome of the case would definitely affect the mind of the High Court Judge when he eventually goes to the main suit because he had taken a stand on the tax document submitted to INEC to be faulty.

“A judge is expected not to take any position on any issues in the main suit because doing so will prejudice the main suit,” Justice Bdliya explained.

He further told the court that the burden of proof laid on the Governor who was the fourth respondent in the appeal to prove that what he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission as tax document was not faulty.

This, he said was because “it is he who alleges that should prove”.

“The issue of tax clearance which puts the burden of proof on the Governor on the tax issues, was not an issue, with regards to a civil servant or public officers whose tax is deducted at source and of which the first respondent was one.
His tax income will be assessed by the tax office.

“I do not agree with the trial judge that it is the second respondent that is the governor that supplied the information to the tax office.

“That would have been true if he had a private business on the side, for which he would have been required by law to declare to the tax office.

“But as a civil servant his tax is deducted at source and imputed by the tax office.

“If the trial judge cannot understand how civil servants tax clearance works he ought to have sought clarifications,” he stressed.

A Golden Opportunity

Explaining further, he pointed out that he could not agree that the tax documents submitted were irregular and false.

“The challenge in the originating summons in relation to tax clearance is not any where near the narrow view envisaged by the Electoral Act.

“There is no allegation of non-payment of tax but that the documentation was false. I therefore resolve this ground in favour of the PDP.

“It is my view that the judge committed a great injustice to the rules of natural justice by not listening to all sides In the case.

“By not listening to the Chief Tax Officer in defence of the Governor he had shut out their opportunity to defend themselves.

“By failing to consider the application of one James Okeji, a director in the Abia State tax office and on the other hand saying that it was an afterthought, the High Court Judge missed a golden opportunity to give all sides opportunity, thereby abandoning his training as a judge,” the Appeal Court held.

It also held that that except a person had participated in an election that he would not be issued a certificate of return and that it could not be decided by the court.

“That is why in the case of Rotimi Amechi the Supreme Court ordered that he should be sworn in and not issued a certificate of return.

“There is a laid down proceedings as to how a certificate of return should be issued to a person,” the Justice held.

Abia Governor, Ikpeazu Says He Is Not Distracted

okezie ikpeazu, Abia State,Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, says he is not distracted as Nigerians await the judgement of the Appeal Court over the power tussle in Abia State.

The man in the eye of the storm, following allegations of tax certificate forgery, spoke to State House correspondents over the matter.

Dr Ikpeazu said he was only worried that the uncertainty and the kind of rumours milled by his detractors are capable of scaring away investors and stopping the good work he has started for Abia people.

According to him, those who are perpetrating the act in the state do not have the welfare of Abia citizens at heart.

Ikpeazu Vows To Defend Abia Electorates’ Mandate

okezie ikpeazu, Abia State,Governor Okezie Ikpeazu says that the mandate given to him by Abia electorates is the pillar of equity and bond of progress, justice and unity which cannot be ignored or taken for granted.

The Governor said this on Tuesday at the Government House in Umuahia during a solidarity rally organised by supporters from Abia North senatorial district.

He said that the solidarity support have strengthened him the more to defend his mandate.

Governor Ikpeazu vowed to continue to render quality service to the people of the state despite the distractions.

Charter Of Equity

In their remarks, the Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Cosmos Ndukwe, and a former member of the state assembly, Sampson Orji, said that they came to voice their support to ensure that the right decisions were taken for the peace of the entire people of the state.

Other notable supporters, Abraham Amah, Barrister Nnennna Obewe and Mathew Ibe asked any person wishing to be Governor of the state to do so only when it is the turn of their senatorial district in order to avoid political upturn.

They said that the governorship seat rotates among the three senatorial districts which include Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South.

The supporters noted that the state is governed by charter of equity as prescribed by the founding fathers of Abia State.