Kalu’s trial over diversion of N5.6b begins May 16
A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday fixed May 16 for rearraignment of former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu over alleged diversion of N5.6 billion belonging to the state.
This followed the Supreme Court judgment of March 18, where it dismissed the accused person’s objection to the charges preferred against him and directed him to submit himself for trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had initially in 2007 preferred 96-count charge, including money laundering against Kalu, his company, Slok Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogo.
Kalu and his co-defendants were accused of diverting the state’s fund while he was governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007.
EFCC, on February 11, 2008, amended the charges and presented 112 counts against the defendants. Their objection to the charges were dismissed by the Court of Appeal and finally by the Supreme Court on March 18.
Kalu and Udeogo, who were represented by different lawyers, were present in court yesterday.
The prosecuting counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, who passed a copy of the Supreme Court judgement validating the trial to Justice Anwuri Chikere during yesterday’s proceddings, said the prosecution needed time to take some steps before the re-arraignment
“This matter is slated for mention. On March 18, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals by the defendant. I will urge my Lord to adjourn the case to afford the prosecution some time to take some steps. We will need about two weeks. We also seek an adjournment for the defendants to take their plea”, Atolagbe said.
Counsel to Kalu, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), and the lawyer representing Udeogo and Slok Nigeria Limited, Chief Solomon Akama (SAN), did not oppose the request for adjournment.
The judge therefore, fixed May 16 for re-arraignment.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court had on March 18, dismissed the defendants’ appeals challenging the competence of the charges preferred against them.
In the lead judgments prepared by Justice Suleiman Galadima, the apex court upheld the concurrent decisions of the Federal High Court, Abuja and the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, which had both earlier dismissed the accused persons’ objection to their trial.
Justice Galadima, whose judgment with respect to Kalu’s appeal was read by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, said: “The appellant had approached the Federal High Court, Abuja, to quash the charges made against him by the EFCC.
“The Court dismissed the case. He went to the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division. He lost and approached this court.
“Having considered all issues raised and arguments by parties, I come to the conclusion that I cannot, but help in dismissing this appeal for lacking in merit. It is hereby dismissed.
“I affirm the decision of the court below, which rightly affirmed the decision of the Federal High Court, that it was not bound by the ex-parte order of the Abia State High Court as to vitiate the charges preferred against the appellant.
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