Why Senate Didn’t Bow To Pressure To Declare Orji Kalu’s Seat Vacant – Lawan

A file photo of Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu exchanging pleasantries after the former Abia State governor was released from the correctional centre.

 

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has revealed why the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly refused to yield to pressure to declare Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s seat and position vacant during the period of his incarceration.

He stated this on Tuesday when he received a delegation of the leaders of thought from Abia State at the National Assembly in Abuja.

Lawan explained that what the Senate did by preserving Kalu’s seat and his position was not extra-ordinary but the right and just thing to do.

“He (Kalu) was on several appeals and until he exhausted all the opportunities available to him, that seat remained his seat. Similarly, the position of the Chief Whip, we didn’t even appoint an acting Chief Whip.

“The Deputy Chief Whip continued to play that role until he was released,” the Senate President was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi.

He added, “We came under pressure, of course, but we thought the right thing to do was to keep that seat, that position until he was able to get his judgement.

“It would have been premature, unjust and unfair to declare his seat vacant or his position to be given away because he was in that situation.

“So, we didn’t do anything extra-ordinary really. We did what was right, what was just, what was necessary.”

Senator Kalu was the Senate Chief Whip when a court in Lagos sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment in December 2019 for a fraud he was said to have committed while he was the Abia State Governor between 1999 and 2007.

He spent six months at the correctional facility before he eventually regained his freedom and returned to the Senate, following the Supreme Court judgement which nullified his conviction on grounds of lack of jurisdiction by the trial judge.

Addressing his guests, Lawan said there was no way anybody could convince the members of the Senate that someone else should take the Abia North Seat, stressing that it was not vacant.

He commended the leaders for unity and understanding among them and their followers in the state.

“Our people need us to give them leadership. They need us to give them good governance. They want to have a better life and particularly in Abia State, you have a lot of businesspeople.

“They would like to see their businesses grow and do well. Once the leaders are united, it makes it much easier for the followership to remain united and supportive so that reaching the promise land can be quite easy,” the Senate President added.

In his remarks, the leader of the delegation, Senator Chris Adighije said the visit was to appreciate the Senate for their concerns for the former governor.

He said, “We want to thank the Senate. It’s something that the entire Abia State and indeed the South East appreciate very much.”

Orji Kalu Returns To Senate After Six Months In Jail

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

 

Former Governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has returned to the Senate after spending six months in jail on allegations of corruption.

Senator Orji arrived at the National Assembly on Tuesday and is attending plenary.

Speaking to journalists before entering the Senate Chamber, the Senator said he was glad to be back to work and that he needs to hit the ground running to cover up for the loss of time to provide quality representation for his constituents in Abia North.

The former governor has been serving a 12-year sentence.

He was released on June 2, 2020, from the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja following an order by the Federal High court.

Senator Kalu, a two-term former governor of Abia State, had urged the court to set aside his conviction on December 5, 2019, by Justice Mohammed Idris.

He explained that this became necessary since the Supreme Court, in its verdict delivered on May 8, 2020, held that Justice Idris gave the judgment without jurisdiction.

He was convicted for embezzling N7.65 billion belonging to the Abia state government.

However, the Supreme Court nullified his conviction and ordered a retrial.

Court Orders Release Of Orji Kalu From Jail

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

 

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the release of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja.

Justice Mohammed Liman ordered Senator Kalu’s release on Tuesday morning after listening to an application filed by the former governor.

Senator Kalu, a two-term former governor of Abia State, had urged the court to set aside his conviction on December 5, 2019, by Justice Mohammed Idris.

He explained that this became necessary since the Supreme Court, in its verdict delivered on May 8, 2020, held that Justice Idris gave the judgment without jurisdiction.

Justice Liman had on May 20 fixed Tuesday for the hearing of the application filed by Senator Kalu after the suit was assigned to him.

He fixed the date more than one week after the Supreme Court nullified the judgment which convicted the former governor and Mr Ude Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House.

At the hearing of the application on Tuesday, Counsel to Senator Kalu, Lateef Fagbemi, asked Justice Liman to order the release of the former governor following the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.

According to him, the application was made pursuant to Section 159 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

On his part, Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs, did not oppose the application.

He noted that the case had dragged for over 13 years and it was better for the trial to proceed immediately so that parties would not lose more time.

The EFCC counsel also asked the court to ensure that the order of the Supreme Court for trial to start afresh be complied with, so that all parties could come before the court for a fresh arraignment and trial of the defendants.

In a summary judgment, Justice Liman held that Orji Kalu’s application seeking his freedom was meritorious.

He also ordered the EFCC to file its processes for a fresh arraignment of the defendants after which the date for trial would be communicated to all parties in the case.

About five months after both men were convicted of corruption allegations levelled against them by the Federal Government, a seven-man panel of the apex court declared the conviction of the appellants as null and void.

In a unanimous verdict delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court held that Justice Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal, as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.

He added that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.

The apex court later ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case for trial.

Alleged Laundering Of N7.65bn: Court Fixes June 2 To Hear Orji Kalu’s Bid For Freedom

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

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed June 2 to hear an application by the former Abia State governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu seeking his immediate release from the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Kuje, Abuja.

Justice Mohammed Liman fixed the date on Wednesday after the application was assigned to him.

Besides seeking his release, the former governor also wants an order of the court setting aside his conviction dated Dec 5, 2019, under the Hand of Hon. Justice Mohammed Idris since the Supreme Court in its judgment of May 8, 2020, held that it was given without jurisdiction.

Senator Orji Kalu has also asked the court to set aside the trial and the sentence passed on each of the 39 counts made against him.

Kalu is serving a 12-year jail term at the Correctional Service Centre in Kuje, Abuja for allegedly laundering N7.65 billion belonging to Abia State.

He has hired a 12-man team of lawyers, including six Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

Orji Kalu Files Application, Seeks Release From Prison

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

 

The former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has filed an application before the Federal High Court in Lagos seeking his immediate release from the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Kuje, Abuja.

The application has been assigned to Justice Mohammed Liman.

Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele today obtained a copy of the application which was filed on May 12, 2020.

The former Director of Finance, Abia State Government House, Ude Jones Udeogu, an aide to the former governor has been listed as a respondent to the application alongside Orji Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited.

The former governor also wants an order of the Court setting aside his conviction dated Dec 5. 2019, under the Hand of Hon. Justice Mohammed Idris since the Supreme Court in its judgment on May 8, 2020, held that it was given without jurisdiction.

Besides this, Orji Kalu has also asked the court to set aside the trial and the sentence passed on him on each of the 39 counts brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Liman is yet to fix a date for the hearing of the application.

Orji Kalu: EFCC Set For Fresh, Immediate Retrial

 

The Economic And Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, says its attention has been drawn to the judgment of the Supreme Court nullifying the trial of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu , his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account of Abia State Government and ordering their fresh trial at the lower court.

According to the EFCC, the Apex Court based its verdict on the grounds that Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Kalu and others had been elevated to the Court of Appeal before the judgment and returned to the lower court to deliver the judgment which it considered as illegal.

READ ALSO: Supreme Court Nullifies Orji Uzor Kalu’s Conviction

The EFCC says it considers the judgment of the Apex Court as quite unfortunate.

“It is a technical ambush against the trial of the former governor,” the Commission stated, adding that it is prepared for a fresh and immediate trial of the case because its evidences against Kalu and others are overwhelming.

According to the EFCC, the corruption charges against Kalu still subsist because the Supreme Court did not acquit him of them.

The Commission further states that its entire prosecutorial machinery would be launched in a fresh trial where justice is bound to be served in due course.

 

Supreme Court Nullifies Orji Uzor Kalu’s Conviction

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

 

 

The Supreme Court has nullified the judgment which convicted the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu.

A seven-man panel of the apex court also set aside the judgment which convicted Ude Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House.

The Supreme Court gave the judgement on Friday, about five months after both men were convicted of corruption allegations levelled against them by the Federal Government.

Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos had sentenced Senator Kalu to 12 years imprisonment in his judgement delivered in December 2019.

He had also sentenced Mr Udeogu to 10 years imprisonment on the same day.

 

A file photo of a courtroom at the Supreme Court complex in Abuja. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

Displeased with the judgement of the Federal High Court, Kalu and Udeogu filed an appeal to challenge their sentencing at the Supreme Court.

READ ALSO: ‘Evidences Against Kalu Are Overwhelming’: EFCC Reacts To Supreme Court Verdict

The apex court, in a unanimous verdict on the appeal delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, declared that the conviction of the appellants was null and void.

Justice Eko explained that the declaration was on the ground that Justice Mohammed Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal, as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.

He held that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.

The apex court, therefore, ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case for trial.

The Federal High Court had sentenced Senator Kalu on December 5, 2019, after finding him guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.56 billion.

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

Similarly, the court sentenced Udeogu in an amended 39-count.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the charges against them.

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.