Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Nigeria: Court Dismisses ex-governor Kalu’s Motion To Adjourn N4.6bn Fraud Trial

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The Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos has dismissed the motion for an adjournment made by Orji Uzor Kalu, the senator representing Abia North senatorial district, to enable him to attend to election petition tribunal.

Kalu alongside Ude Udeogo, his former Commissioner for Finance, and Slok Nigeria Limited are answering charges bordering on money laundering and embezzlement preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The trial on Monday was scheduled for the senator to opened his defence on the allegation of money laundering and embezzlement.

However, when the trial commenced, the senator asked the court for an adjournment which was opposed by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the prosecuting counsel.

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Justice Mohammed Idris, the presiding judge, ruled in support of the prosecution and asked Kalu to open his defence as that was the stipulated business of the day.

Read MoreNigeria: Orji Kalu’s absence stalls N3.2bn fraud trial

Kalu took the witness stand and gave testimony on his credentials before becoming a lawmaker. He was led in evidence by his lawyer, Awal Kalu (SAN).

Thereafter, Kalu’s counsel repeated his motion for an adjournment to enable him properly give evidence in his defence.

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This time, the trial judge granted the motion but insisted that the trial would continue on a day-to-day basis until it is concluded.

Recall that Justice Idris was elevated to the Court of Appeal in June 2018, but was given a fiat to sit on the case until its conclusion.

The first fiat was granted at the instance of Kalu’s Lawyer, who activated Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, to prevent the case from being transferred to another judge. However, the fiat expired in November 2018.

A copy of a fresh fiat was issued for the trial to continue on a day-to-day basis from July 22, 2019, until the trial is concluded.

Read MoreNigeria: Court revoke bail of ex-governor, Orji Kalu on money laundering and fraud charges

On July 31, 2018, Justice Idris dismissed the ‘no-case submissions’ made by Kalu and the other defendants and ordered them to open their defence.

But rather than open their defence, Kalu sought a six-week adjournment to embark on a trip to Germany to have surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

The defendants later challenged the jurisdiction of the judge in hearing the case, arguing that he was no longer a judge of the high court.

They also filed an application seeking a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of their appeals. Justice Idris dismissed both.

Subsequently, when Kanu did not make himself available for his trial, Justice Idris revoked his bail. The judge also ordered him to submit himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return to the country.

On January 23, 2019, when the case last came up in court, the prosecutor complained about Kalu’s repeated absence from court, alleging that the former governor, then a senator-elect was taking the court for a ride. The EFCC’s lawyer also noted that despite the court’s order, Kanu did not turn himself in, as directed by the court.

But in response, Justice Idris said he could not proceed with the case as the fiat given to him by the Appeal Court President had expired in November 2018.

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The trial has now been adjourned to August 26, 2019, for the commencement of a day-to-day trial.

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