Former Governor of Abia State Orji Uzor Kalu and two others have been found guilty of N7.65bn fraud by the Federal High Court in Lagos.The presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, sentenced Kalu to 12 years’ imprisonment while he ordered the winding up of Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, charged as the third defendant in the caseConcise News reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Kalu alongside his company and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts during Kalu’s tenure as governor in July last year on a 39-count amended charge.
The convicts were first arraigned in 2007 before Justice Adamu Bello but several adjournments and transfer of judges stalled the trial.The court initially fixed December 2 to deliver judgment but announced last Friday that the judgment would be delivered on December 5.
It was learned that the reason for the rescheduling was due to the judge’s participation in election petition tribunal matters.In 2018, the EFCC closed its case after calling 19 witnesses.In their defence, Kalu and his co-defendants filed a no-case submission before the court.Before he could hear and rule on the no-case submission, the presiding judge, JusticeMohammed Idris, was elevated to the Court of Appeal.The judge, however, received a fiat from the appeal court president, Zainab Bulkachuwa, to return to the high court and conclude the case.
Rather than proceed to open their defence, Kalu sought a six-week adjournment to enable him to embark on a trip to Germany to have surgery for an undisclosed ailment.The defendants later challenged the judge’s jurisdiction to hear the case, arguing that he was no longer a judge of the high court.
They also filed an application for a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of their appeals, Justice Idris dismissed both applications.
When Kalu did not present himself for trial, the judge revoked his bail and ordered him to submit himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return to the country.Kalu, however, failed to heed the judge’s directive and began campaigning for his senatorial election.
In April this year, the Court of Appeal in Lagos upheld the high court’s decision against Kalu.Kalu was a governor under the Peoples Democratic Party but defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress where he contested and won a senatorial seat.