Court okays witness evidence against Kalu over N3.2bn fraud
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday ruled that a prosecution witness was competent to give evidence in the ongoing trial of a former Governor of Abia , Orji Uzor Kalu, charged with N3.2 billion fraud.
In a short ruling on Thursday, Idris held that the witness was competent to give evidence although he was not listed in the proof of evidence.
“I have no doubt that the witness is competent to give evidence in the trial.”
Idris, however, pointed out that the witness was not properly brought before the court, and urged the prosecution to comply with the provisions of Section 379(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
The judge, therefore, directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to supply the Defence with additional proof of evidence.
The EFCC had on Oct. 31, 2016, preferred a 34-count charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo as well as Kalu’s company — Slok Nigeria Ltd.
The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bails.
At the last adjournment on March 8, the prosecution had began examination of its second witness, Mrs Christiana Ohiri, the Umuahia Branch Manager of UBA .
The witness had began her testimony and the prosecution and sought to tender some statements of account through her when a defence counsel, Mr Mike Ozekhome (SAN) objected to the admissibility of the document.
He argued that the document could not be tendered in evidence as same was not duly certified, and urged the court to uphold his submission.
Justice Mohammed Idris consequently adjourned the case to March 9 for ruling.
The accused were alleged to have committed the offence between August 2001 and October 2005.
Kalu was also alleged to have utilised 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 Nigeria 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 accused allegedly used Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Finland Bank for the fraud.
On counts one to 10, the accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which belongs to the Abia State Government.
Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the 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 and Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by the amendment Act No.9 of 2002.
The offences also violated Section 477 of the Criminal Code, Laws of the Federation, 1990.
Justice Idris has adjourned continuation of trial to April 10.