N7.65bn Fraud: Court Rejects Orji Kalu’s Post-Conviction Bail

A file photo of former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

 

 

A Federal High Court in Lagos has refused to grant a former governor of Abia State, Uzor Orji Kalu, a post-conviction bail.

Justice Mohammed Liman, however, ordered that the former governor be remanded in prison until his appeal has been heard.

Ruling on Mr Kalu’s application on Monday, the judge wondered the motion for bail was filed speedily when the appeal against his conviction has not been heard.

The former governor had, through his counsel, filed an application for post-conviction bail pending his appeal against his jail sentence based on health grounds which he said the medical facilities in the prison could not handle.

He also informed the court of his role as the Chief Whip of the Senate that the interests of his constituents would be in jeopardy if he was kept behind bars.

But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) opposed the bail on grounds that bail was for accused persons on the presumption of innocence.

The anti-corruption agency argued that since Kalu had been convicted, he could no longer enjoy such a privilege.

The court had on December 5 jailed Mr Kalu for 12 years after finding him guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.56 billion.

The assets of Slok Nigeria Limited, Kalu’s company, were also forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Similarly, the former governor’s aide and erstwhile Director of Finance in the Abia State House of Assembly was also sentenced in an amended 39-count, the EFCC had charged them with.

EFCC Marks Orji Kalu’s Properties For Seizure

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has started marking properties belonging to the former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu for seizure.

Mr Kalu, a senator representing Abia North, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for a N7.65 billion fraud by Justice Muhammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Is Experiencing Myriads Of Security Challenges, Says General Olonisakin

According to the EFCC in a statement on Saturday, the marking is to ensure that the properties are not dissipated.

Read the EFCC statement below:

“EFCC Press Release
N7.65bn Fraud: EFCC Marks Ex-Abia Gov, Orji Kalu’s Properties 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Saturday,
December 14, 2019, marked properties belonging to a former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

The marking is to ensure that the properties are not dissipated, following the December 5, 2019 order of Justice Muhammed Idris sitting at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos that Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, be wound up and all assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

Kalu, who is the Senator representing Abia North in the National Assembly, had been arraigned alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited and Udeh Udeogu, his Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House, over an amended 39-count  charge bordering on conspiring and diverting the sum of  N7.65bn from the coffers of the state.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them by the EFCC, thereby leading to their full trial.

In the course of the trial, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, called 19 witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court.

The defendants, however, testified on behalf of themselves during the trial.

The parties, during the proceedings on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, adopted their final written addresses.

In his final submission, the prosecution counsel, Jacobs, urged the judge to jail the defendants, saying the prosecution had proved the allegations against them.

Jacobs also urged the court to wind up the company as provided by the Law and all its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

However, the defence counsel urged the court to “dismiss the charges, acquit and discharge” their clients.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Idris found the defendants guilty on all counts.

Justice Idris held that the prosecution had established its case against the defendants.

The Judge further held that “the case was conclusively investigated, as the prosecution conducted thorough investigations.”

Justice Idris, therefore, convicted and sentenced the first defendant,
Kalu to five years imprisonment on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11; three years on counts 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32,
33; 12 years on counts 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38 and five years on count 39.

The second defendant was convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment on counts 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32 and 10 years on counts 34, 37, 38 and 39.

Justice Idris further held that “In respect of the third convict, Slok Nigeria Limited, an order is hereby made that the company shall hereupon and without further assurances, but for this order, be wound up and all its assets and properties forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

                                                        Wilson Uwujaren

Head, Media & Publicity

14 December 2019

 

Alleged N7.65bn Fraud: Orji Kalu To Know Fate In December

A file photo of Senator Orji Kalu.

 

 

The Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos is set to deliver judgment in an alleged fraud case of N7.65 billion against a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, and two others.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Mohammed Idris fixed December 2 for judgment after parties in the case adopted their written addresses and made their final arguments, 12 years after trial initially commenced.

In its final arguments, the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Rotimi Jacobs, asked the judge to jail the defendants as the prosecution had proved the allegations against them.

Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), also told the court that contrary to Senator Kalu’s statement that Abia did not have as much as N7 billion during his administration, information from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation revealed that total allocation to the state when the lawmaker was governor was N137 billion.

The defence counsels, on their part, asked the court to dismiss the charges, acquit and discharge their clients.

They insisted that the prosecution failed to prove its case against them.

After listening to all the parties, Justice Idris fixed December 2 for judgment.

READ ALSO: Tribunal Nullifies Orji Kalu’s Election, Orders Fresh Poll

Senator Kalu, his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor, are standing trial on an amended 39-count brought against them by the EFCC.

The anti-graft agency accused them of conspiring and diverting N7.65 billion from the coffers of the state.

In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Kalu, who was Abia State Governor between 1999 and 2007, “did procure Slok Nigeria Limited – a company solely owned by you and members of your family – to retain in its account, domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc, Apapa branch, Lagos, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on your behalf.”

The prosecution claimed that the money “formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the said company’s account.”

Mr Jacobs said the offences were contrary to Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.

Apart from the N7.1bn, which he was accused of laundering, the former governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460 million allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.

The prosecutor said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

However, the defendants all pleaded not guilty.

In an attempt to prove the allegations, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses while the defendants testified on behalf of themselves.

My Mandate Will Be Restored, Kalu Reacts To Tribunal’s Judgement

 

The senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Dr Orji Kalu, has urged people of the state not to lose hope, stressing that his mandate will be re-claimed at the Court of Appeal.

He was quoted to have said this in a statement signed by his media office on Monday following the nullification of his election by a tribunal.

The senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mao Ohabunwa, had filed a petition challenging the declaration of Orji Kalu as the elected candidate.

In his petition, he alleged non-compliance with the principles of electoral law and violation of margin of lead.

Consequently, the tribunal ordered that a rerun be held within the next 90 days in some wards in Ohafia, Arochukwu, Isuikwuato, Nkporo and Bende LGAs.

Senator Kalu had polled 30,203 votes against Ohaubunwa who garnered 20,801 votes in the February 23, 2019 general election.

But in reaction to the tribunal’s judgement, he said he will appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal.

While admonishing members and stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to remain strong, steadfast and law-abiding, Kalu noted that he will not relent in sustaining his goodwill at the grassroots.

Read Also: Tribunal Nullifies Orji Kalu’s Election, Orders Fresh Poll

According to him, his victory in the election was borne out of his popularity among the people, and therefore, he believes justice can only be delayed but not denied.

“The PDP candidate, Ohaubunwa, is not popular among the people and as such, my victory in the National Assembly poll is a landslide.

“Any day, any time, the APC will defeat the PDP in Abia North Senatorial District.

“At the appropriate time, my mandate will be restored,” he said.

Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: I Spent My Money To Run Abia For Six Months, Orji Kalu Tells Court

A file photo of Senator Orji Kalu.

 

 

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.

READ ALSO: Lagos Assembly Sets Up Panel To Probe Ambode

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.

Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Absence Of Kalu’s Lawyer Stalls Trial

A file photo of Senator Orji Kalu.

 

 

The trial of the former Governor of Abia State, and the lawmaker representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, has been stalled at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Senator Kalu’s trial could not continue on Monday as a result of the absence of his counsel who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Awa Kalu.

Although the former governor was present in court, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, was informed that Professor Kalu was ill.

READ ALSO: Court Affirms APC’s Decision To Hold Indirect Primary In Kogi

The message came through the second defendants’ counsel, Mr Kelvin Nwofo (SAN), who told the court that he came into Lagos on Sunday with Professor Kalu who suddenly took ill.

Mr Nwofo then asked the court to grant an adjournment to enable the professor to recover.

The prosecuting counsel, Mr Adebisi Adeniyi, had no objections to the request for an adjournment and Justice Idris subsequently adjourned proceedings until Tuesday, August 27.

The former governor is standing trial before Justice Idris on an alleged N7.6bn fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC arraigned him in November 2016 alongside the second defendant, his former Commissioner for Finance, Jones Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Ltd, which is the third defendant, on an amended 39-count of fraud-related offences.

They had all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

At the last sitting of the court on July 22, Senator Kalu finally opened his defence on the allegations against him.

He took the witness box in his own defence and was only able to testify for about seven minutes before the proceedings were adjourned until August 26.

In giving his testimony, the former governor was only able to state his name, address, occupation and the number of counts for which he was standing trial before the proceedings was truncated by Professor Kalu who asked for an adjournment to enable him adequately prepare for the trial.

At the last adjourned date, Justice Idris had also told the parties that by a fiat dated July 8, the President of the Court of Appeal had directed that “I conclude this part-heard matter.”

“Trial will now run from day-to-day until we finish,” he said.

Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Orji Kalu Opens Defence After 13 Years

A file photo of Senator Orji Kalu.

 

 

The former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, has opened his defence in a case of alleged N7.6 billion fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Kalu, the Senate Chief Whip, gave his testimony on Monday when he appeared at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

The former governor whose testimony lasted for about seven minutes was only able to state his name, address, occupation and the number of counts for which he was standing trial before the proceedings were truncated by his counsel, Awa Kalu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

[READ ALSO] Senator Abbo’s Trial: Prosecution Seeks More Time

The counsel asked the court to grant him an adjournment to enable him get access to the case file so as to adequately prepare for his defence.

Kalu, who had initially made a request for an adjournment prior to his client opening his defence, said after receiving the notice of Monday’s hearing, he had by a letter dated July 15 2019, informed the court that he would not be available in court because of an election petition he was handling.

The senior lawyer also told the court that he, however, decided to come to the court in person on Monday to explain his predicament.

He said, “My lord, I have to run to Lagos without the case file because my secretary is bereaved and not in Abuja, and for that reason, I would not be able to proceed.”

Mr Kalu also stated that the second and third defendants were not represented in court and since the trial was a joint one, it would be improper to proceed in their absence.

He, therefore, urged the court for an adjournment that would be convenient for all the parties to continue with the matter.

The EFCC is prosecuting Senator Kalu along with the then Commissioner for Finance, Udeh Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, for the alleged fraud on an amended 39-count.

They have, however, all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

In response to the defence counsel’s initial request for an adjournment, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), asked the court to direct the first defendant, Orji Kalu to open his defence since he was in court.

On the prompting of the court, Senator Kalu opened his defence and testified for about seven minutes.

In his defence, the Senator while being led in evidence by his counsel, told the court that he earned a living as a manufacturer of homemade goods until a few weeks ago when he became a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

When further probed by his counsel on what he manufactures, the defendant said he manufactured tomato paste and other household items.

After this testimony, the counsel made a second request for an adjournment to enable him adequately prepare.

Thereafter, Justice Mohammed Idris gave a short ruling on whether the trial should continue in the absence of the second and third defendants.

He said, “Since counsel to second and third defendants were served with the notice of hearing for the day and they were absent and did not deem it fit to send to court, any of the counsel that has been appearing with them in the matter, the proceedings of the day will go on…”

Justice Idris then adjourned the case until August 26 for the continuation of trial.

Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Orji Kalu’s Trial To Resume July 22

Orji Uzor Kalu

 

The 13-year-old trial of a former governor of Abia State and Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, will resume at the Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos on Monday, July 22.

This is after President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, gave a fresh fiat 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.

READ ALSO: Justice Bulkachuwa Cancels Annual Vacation for Justices Of The Appeal Court

A copy of a Fresh Fiat has however stated that the trial will now commence on the 22nd of July 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 of money laundering to the tune of N7.6billion.

On July 31, 2018, Justice Idris dismissed the ‘no-case submissions’ made by 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.

Court Revokes Orji Kalu’s Bail

Orji Kalu Berates Governors Over Arbitrary Expenses
Former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu

 

A Federal High Court in Lagos has revoked the bail granted to a former Governor of Abia State, Mr Orji Kalu for flouting court orders.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Muhammed Idris revoked the former governor’s bail for the failure to appear in court for his trial.

The judge said it is clear that Kalu disobeyed the court order and he maintained that no one, whether high or low, rich or poor can disobey a valid order of the court and expect such court to show mercy.

He also ordered that when Kalu returns to the country, he must report to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) with all his travel documents.

The judge also ruled that the EFCC should effect his arrest should Kalu fail to submit himself to the anti-graft agency.

Kalu’s lawyer had sent a mail to the court informing the judge that the accused has been placed on bed rest for between 10 to 12 months.

On the contrary, the judge said no medical report was attached to the mail.

The case has however been adjourned to January 23, 2019, for trial.

 

Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Court Dismisses ‘No Case Submission’ By Orji Kalu

Orji Kalu Berates Governors Over Arbitrary Expenses

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday dismissed a no-case submission filed by a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, in response to the 7.6 billion naira fraud charges against him by the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Kalu, and his co-defendants, Slok Nigeria Limited and the state’s former Commissioner for Finance, Udeh Udeogu, had contended in a ‘no case submission’ made by them that the amended charge filed against them by the EFCC did not disclose any case or offence against them to warrant their putting in a defence.

Justice Mohammed Idris, in his ruling, said that Kalu and other defendants had some explanations to make particularly on certain documents tendered by the EFCC as exhibits in evidence against him.

He also called on the defendants to open their defence, reminding the parties that he had until the end of September to finish the case.

Kalu’s lawyer, Mr Gordy Uche (SAN), however, pleaded with the judge for a six-week adjournment to enable Kalu go for a surgical operation.

But the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), pleaded that the case be heard in the first week of September, bearing in mind that the judge had to conclude the case by the end of September.

In a short ruling, justice Idris said he was constrained to grant Uche’s request, and adjourned the case till September 10 for the defendants to open their defence.

Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: EFCC Re-Arraigns Orji Kalu, Others On Amended Charge

Orji Kalu Berates Governors Over Arbitrary Expenses

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has re-arraigned a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, for an alleged fraud of N7.65bn.

He was re-arraigned today at the Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos, alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Ude Udeogu, who served as the Director of Finance and Account, Abia State Government House while Kalu was governor.

The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, had dismissed the objection raised by the defence team to the amended charge sheet, paving the way for the re-arraignment of the defendants.

Tuesday’s re-arraignment follows an amendment to the charge filed against the defendant 11 years ago.

In the amended charge, the EFCC increased the number of counts against the defendants from the initial 34 to 39.

The amount quoted to have been allegedly diverted, stolen and laundered by the defendants was also increased from N2.9bn to N7.65bn.

The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the amendment to the charge became necessary in view of new facts revealed by some of the19 witnesses who had testified against Kalu and his co-defendants in court.

In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Kalu, who was Abia State Governor between 1999 and 2007, “did procure Slok Nigeria Limited – a company solely owned by you and members of your family – to retain in its account, domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc, Apapa branch, Lagos, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on your behalf.”

The prosecution claimed that the N7.1bn “formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the said company’s account.”

The prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, said the ex-governor violated Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and was liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.

Apart from the N7.1bn, which he was accused of laundering, the ex-governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460m allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.

The prosecutor said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

On their part, Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited, one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, and another fellow, Michael Udo, also at large, were accused of collaborating with Kalu to conceal the “genuine origin” of allegedly stolen funds.

The EFCC said they are liable to be punished under Section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.

When the counts were read to Kalu, Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited, however, they pleaded not guilty as they had done during their previous arraignments.

At the request of their lawyers, Justice Idris allowed them to continue with the bail granted them 11 years ago when they were first arraigned.

The defence team then drew the court’s attention to the ‘no-case submissions’ they had filed on behalf of their clients since May when the prosecution closed its case after calling its 19 witnesses in proof of the charge.

The defence team informed the court that they had each been served with a 126-page written address by the prosecutor in response to the no-case submissions.

They pleaded with the court for a short adjournment to enable them to file a reply to the 126-page document and return to court to adopt same.

Justice Idris granted the prayer and adjourned till July 25, 2018 for further proceedings.

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.

READ ALSO: Executive Order 6 Most Potent Tool Against Corruption, Says Lai Mohammed

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.