Alleged Fraud: Trial Of Kalu, Two Others Stalled

Alleged Fraud: Court Stalls Trial Of Kalu, Two OthersThe trial of a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, and two others on allegations of fraud was stalled at the Federal High Court in Lagos amid a heavy downpour.

The failure of the prosecution to serve the statement of one of its witnesses on the defence team halted the proceedings before Justice Mohammed Idris.

When the case came up on Monday, the court directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to call its first witness in the case.

The witness, Onovah Ovenevoh, was about to begin his testimony when lawyer to the second and third defendants, Solo Akuma, drew the court’s attention to the fact that his statement was not part of the proof of evidence given to him by the prosecution.

He said service of witness statement on the defence was a constitutional right and a facility that should be provided for an accused person as enshrined in Section 36(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution.

Aligning himself fully with Mr Akuma’s submissions, lawyer to the former governor, Mike Ozhekome, urged the court to hold that since the prosecution has not provided the statement, the witness cannot testify.

Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, however, urged the court to discountenance the submissions of the two defence lawyers.

He insisted that the witness was in court by virtue of a court’s order which summoned him to appear and as such, the Commission should not be concerned about providing his statement.

The court then fixed Tuesday, March 7 for ruling on the matter.

The defendants, Dr. Kalu, Udeh Jones Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited were arraigned on October 31, 2016 before the court by the EFCC on a 34-count charge of alleged 3.2 billion Naira fraud.

Supreme Court Gives EFCC Right To Prosecute EX-Gov Orji Kalu

Orji KaluThe Supreme Court in Nigeria has given the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a ‘go-ahead’ to prosecute the former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, on a 107-count charge bordering on corruption.

The charge predicated on alleged complicity of the former Governor in money laundering and illegal diversion of public funds of about 5.6 billion Naira.

Mr Kalu was alleged to have perpetuated the fraud between 1999 and 2007 while he was the Governor of Abia State.

The anti-graft agency had brought Mr Kalu before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on July 27, 2007. But through various interlocutory applications Mr Kalu had frustrated moves to open the case.

He had challenged the competence of the charge against him, as well as the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear and determine the case.

After the the trial court refused to quash the charge, Kalu, took the case before the Court of Appeal in Abuja which in a unanimous judgment, upheld the competence of the charge.

The Appeal Court stressed that the High Court had power to exercise jurisdiction on the trial, a ruling that Mr Kalu was not satisfied with.

He approached the Supreme Court, requesting that it set-aside the concurrent verdicts of the two lower courts.

The former Governor, through his lawyer, Mr Awa Kalu, pleaded with a five-man panel of Justices of the apex court, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to quash the criminal charge against him.

He contended that “the EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie nexus linking him to the ingredients of the offence contained in the charge and that the proof of evidence that the anti-graft agency presented against him did not nail him to the commission of any crime”.

In a unanimous judgment on Friday the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, asking the EFCC to carry on with the case.

Delivering the lead verdict, Justice Suleiman Galadima upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision, saying that the apex court was satisfied that the former Governor had a case to answer, pertaining to allegations that were levelled against him by the EFCC.