The trial of former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, his former aide, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, over alleged N3.2 billion fraud, before a Lagos Federal High Court suffered a set back on Tuesday due to the late arrival of the prosecuting counsel.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had re-arraigned Kalu, his former aide, Udeh Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 34-count charge, before the court.
The offences they had all pleaded not guilty to.
At the resumed trial of the criminal charges, lawyers to Kalu and his former aide and company, Mr. Awa Kalu and Solomon Akumah, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), informed the court of their readiness to go on with the trial of the case but expressed dismay at the absence of the EFCC Lawyer, Mr. Adeniyi Adebisi, whom they said failed to inform either the court or the defence of his absence.
They particularly informed the court that since the institution of the case about nine years ago, their clients have been ever ready to face the prosecution.
They consequently, urged the court to strike out the case against their clients for lack of diligent prosecution.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, while citing sections 351(1) and 351(2) of Administration of the Criminal Justice (ACJA), which empowered the court to strike out a case if no reasonable excuses is put before the court for the prosecutor’s absence stated that the court would use its discretion to give the prosecution a last adjournment.
It was in the process of adjourning the matter that the EFCC’s counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, entered the court and apologised for coming late, saying that he was stuck in traffic.
Upon the agreement of both parties, the matter was adjourned till March 6 to 10, and April 10 to 13, 2017, for trial.
In the 34-count amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07, the EFCC alleged that Kalu and accused persons had between August 7, 2001, and December 2005, while Kalu was the Governor of Abia State, used the said money to procure Slok Nigeria Limited, a company EFCC claimed belongs to Kalu and his family.
The accused persons and one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have between May 2002 and December 2005, conspired among themselves to launder fund illegally derived from the Treasury of Abia State government.
They were also alleged to have aggregated several millions of naira amounting to N3.2 billion, property of Abia State government, knowing that the said amount formed parts of funds stolen from the Treasury of Abia State government.
The accused persons 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) to siphon money from Abia State Government.
In counts one to 10, Uzor Kalu was alleged to have between August 13, 2003 and August 10, 2005, while he was the Abia State Governor, procured Slok Nigeria Limited, the company solely belongs to him and his family members, retained in his account domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc, the total sum of N2. 502, 600 billion, which formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through Manny Bank (now Fidelity Bank Plc), which were converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited.
Also, in counts 11 to 20, Slok Nigeria Limited and one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have between April 29, 2003 and August 10, 2005, retained in their accounts domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank (now First City Monument Bank), the total sum of N2.493 billion, on behalf of Orji Kalu, who was then the Executive Governor of Abia State, and that the money formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of the state government, through Manny Bank now Fidelity Bank Plc.
In count 22 to 33 of the charge, Kalu, Udeh Jones Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Emeka Abone, who he said to be at large, were alledged to have between August 13, 2003 and August 10, 2005, collaborated and concealed the genuine origin of the total sum of N2.187,400 billion, which formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through Manny Bank (now Fidelity Bank), and converted and paid the said sum into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited, with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc.
The accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charge.