Ex-governor of Abia State, Orji Uzo Kalu.
A Federal High Court, sitting at Ikoyi Division, Lagos and presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris on Tuesday held that former Abia State governor Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and two others have case to answer in the N7.1 billion fraud slammed against them in the second amended charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In his ruling on Tuesday on Orji Uzo Kalu’s ‘No Case Submission’ motion (1st defendant), Slok Nigeria Limited (2nd defendant) and Ude Jones Udeogu (3rd defendant), the trial judge, Idris, threw out their motion, stating that the defendants have explanations to make in view of the evidence before the court.
Justice Idris while delivering the ruling said: “The prosecution through the evidence of 19 witnesses, tendered a number of exhibits which I have thoroughly examined.
” Going through the evidence of these witnesses, it appears to me that it is taken as much as they are uncontroverted. Some links might be established between the first, second and third defendants in some of the alleged offences in the light of some exhibits tendered.
“In the light of this, I am of the view that the defendants have some explanations to make in the light of evidence before the court. The ‘No Case Submission’ is overruled.
After the ruling, the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs applauded the court and asked for date for defence to open its case, subject to the .convenience of the court.
However Goddy Uche (SAN) appearing for the defence team, informed the court that the 1st defendant would be going to hospital for surgery operations, adding that it would be better to adjourn till September10 to enable the first defendant complete his treatment. He tendered a letter from the hospital for the operation.
Rotimi Jacobs suggested that the date be brought down to first week of September but the defence counsel maintained his position on September10.
While adjourning the matter till September 10 for defence to open its case, Justice Idris reminded the parties that he has the fiat to conclude the case by the end of September.
The judge had at the last hearing, fixed July 31 for ruling on the motion for ‘No Case Submission’ filed by the defendants after the defence team and the prosecution had addressed the court on the sustenance or otherwise of ‘No Case submission’ filed by the defendants, Orji Uzor Kalu, his company Slok Nigeria Limited and his former Commissioner for Finance Udeh Jones Udeogu.
It would be recalled that Orji Uzor Kalu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Udeogu, were re-arraigned by the EFCC on the second further amended charge of 39 counts bordering on N7.1 billion alleged fraud. They pleaded not guilty and Justice Idris allowed them to remain on the bail conditions earlier granted them.
After the defendants’ plea of not guilty, their counsel informed the judge of “no case submissions” they filed and which had been served on the anti-graft agency.
The trial judge had adjourned the matter until July 25, 2018, to entertain arguments on the “no case’’ submissions. After the arguments on the above stated date, the judge adjourned till July 31 (today) for ruling.
In the second further amended charge filed by the EFCC, Orji Uzor Kalu and other two defendants were alleged to have committed the offences between August, 2001 and September, 2006.
Specifically, the ex-governor was accused of using his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited to retain N200 million in an account domiciled in First Inland Bank.
The said sum, according to the EFCC formed part of funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Uzor-Kalu, his company Slok Nigeria Ltd, one Emeka Abone and Michael Akpan, who are still at large, allegedly collaborated to commit the offences between 2001 and September 2006.
The ex-governor and others were equally alleged to have concealed the genuine origin of a total sum to the tune of N7.2 billion, which the anti-graft agency declared formed part of funds illegally derived from the Abia State Treasury, and converted same into several bank drafts, which were subsequently paid into the account of Slok Nigeria Ltd.
In counts one to 10, the EFCC accused the defendants of retaining about N2.7 billion in different bank accounts, which funds were said to belong to the Abia State Government.
In totality, Uzor Kalu and others were alleged to have diverted over N7.1 billion from the Abia State Government’s treasury, when he held sway as the governor of Abia State.
According to the EFCC, the offence allegedly committed by the defendants contravened Sections 14, 15(6), 16, 17 and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.
The Commission further maintained that the offence flouted the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by the amendment Act No. 9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.