Court adjourns Orji Uzrr Kalu’s N3.2bn fraud trial to April 12
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday adjourned, till April 12, for continuation of trial of a former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu, charged with N3.2 billion fraud.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Oct. 31, 2016 had slammed a 34-count charge bordering on fraud against Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo.
Also joined in the suit is Kalu’s company — Slok Nig. Ltd. The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges. At the resumed hearing of the case on Tuesday, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs, had re-examined a second prosecution witness, Mrs Christiana Ohiri, branch Manager of UBA in Umuahia.
Orji Kalu The witness, who had began her evidence in March during re-examination, said that she did not personally meet all the people who carried out transactions with the 36 bank drafts issued by her bank. She told the court that no payments were made to the accused from the Government House account between 2002 and 2005.
When cross-examined by defence counsel, Chief Gordy Uche (SAN), on a document containing information about 36 bank drafts issued by the Umuahia Branch of the bank, the witness said that no draft was paid by the accused or issued in his name. She said that the accused did not personally come to her to purchase any draft and his name was not included in any of the drafts.
After her evidence, the prosecutor had sought for an adjournment to enable him to proceed with trial at a later date. He told the court that all efforts to ensure that another witness was brought to court proved abortive.
“My Lord, I was thinking that the defence will spend more time cross-examining the second prosecution witness.
“So, I will be pleading with My Lord for an adjournment; this is the first time we will be seeking for an adjournment in this matter”, he said.
Although the defence had raised objection to the request for adjournment, the court however, adjourned the case until April 12 for continuation of trial.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between August 2001 and October 2005. Kalu was alleged to have utilized his company to retain in the account of a First Inland bank, now FCMB, the sum of N200 million.
The sum is alleged to have formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia State Government. In one of the counts, his company (Slok Nig Ltd) and one Emeka Abone, who is said to be at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused.
They were alleged to have used Manny Bank, (now Fidelity Bank Plc), Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB). On counts one to 10, the accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which funds were said to belong to the Abia State Government.
Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia State Government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.
They also contravened 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.