Alleged N3bn Fraud: Appeal Court President Directs Conclusion Of Kalu’s Case By September

Alleged Fraud: Orji Kalu Files ‘No-Case Submission’ As EFCC Amends Charge
File photo of former Abia Governor Orji Kalu

 

The trial of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, is to be concluded before the end of September this year.

This was the directive given by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.

The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, who is among 12 High Court Judges recently elevated to the Court of Appeal, disclosed this on Monday at the resumed proceedings of the case at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Though the court is on vacation till September, with only designated vacation judges sitting, Justice Idris has stayed back to hear Orji Kalu’s case, with a view to meeting the directive and concluding the case before September when he would take on cases at the Court of Appeal – his new duty post.

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The former governor’s lawyer, Awa Kalu, had written to the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bulkachuwa, to release Justice Idris to enable him conclude hearing in the case, which is already at an advanced stage.

The defence counsel made the request pursuant to Section 396 subsection 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which allows a high court judge elevated to the Court of Appeal to conclude all partly-heard cases in his docket pending at the high court.

At the proceedings on Monday, the prosecuting counsel for the Federal Government, Rotimi Jacobs, and other defence counsel, Kelvin Nwofor and Solo Akuma, gave their consent for Justice Idris to conclude the case despite his elevation to the Court of Appeal.

The court had however adjourned till July 17 to give a ruling on whether the Prosecution can amend its charges and re-arraign the defendants after closing its case against them.

Orji Uzor Kalu, who was Abia State governor between 1999 and 2007, is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting about N3billion from the state’s treasury.

He was charged alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Ude Udeogu, who served under him as the Director of Finance and Account, Abia State Government House.

The defendants have, however, pleaded not guilty to the 34 charges made against them.

The prosecution had on May 11, 2018 closed its case, while the defence counsel hinted that they would file ‘no-case submissions’ in response to the charges.

The defendants claim that the charges as laid out disclose no offence for which they are required to put in a defence.

Shortly after this, the prosecutor, Jacobs, later sought to amend the charges and re-arraign the defendants, a move that the defence team resisted.

The defence team contend that the prosecution could not amend the charges without first obtaining the leave of the court to do so.

Justice Idris has fixed his ruling on this issue for Tuesday, July 17.

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.

Orji Uzor Kalu’s Trial At Federal High Court Stalled

Orji KaluThe trial of a former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kanu, on charges bordering on corruption at the Federal High Court stalled on Monday.

Justice Anuli Chickere said she could not go on with the case when an aspect of the matter was still pending at the Supreme Court.

Pending Appeal

One of the parties charged in the case, Slok Airlines, which also belongs to Mr Kalu, has an appeal pending at the apex court.

During proceedings, counsel to Slok Nigeria Limited, Mr Solomon Akuma, drew the attention of the court to the pending appeal by his client, Slok Nigeria Limited, before the Supreme Court which had not been heard.

He informed the court that briefs in the appeal had been filed and exchanged, but no hearing date has been fixed for the appeal.

Mr Akuma, therefore, asked for an adjournment to allow all parties to properly come before the court.

The lawyers for the defendants also told the court that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) just served the former Governor an amended charge to replace the 107-count charge brought against him in 2007.

They requested for time to study the charges and prepare adequately for the case.

The former Chief Executive of Abia State, is alleged to have, amongst other offences, while he was the Governor of Abia State in 2003, procured Slok Nigeria Limited to retain its account domiciled with a commercial bank in the sum of 200 million Naira and that the sum formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government through another commercial bank.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Chikere adjourned the case to June 30 to enable the third defendant conclude its appeal at the Supreme Court.

Mr Kalu’s trial is coming more than eight years after he was first arraigned for misappropriation of state’s funds.

The Supreme Court on March 18 gave the EFCC a ‘go-ahead’ to prosecute the former Governor.

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.

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.

But the Supreme Court gave the EFCC a go-ahead to try him.

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.