Posted by News Express | 12 April 2016 | 3,049 times
Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed May 16 for arraignment of former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, the state’s ex-Director of Finance in the State House, Udeh Jones Udeogu, and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited on a 112 amended charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They are accused of diverting the Abia State’s funds estimated at about N5.6billion while Kalu and Udeogu were in office between 1999 and 2007.
The three are to be re-arraigned on the amended charge about seven years after they were earlier arraigned on a similar charge before Justice Adamu Bello (now retired from the Federal High Court’s bench).
Kalu, Slok and Udeogu were first arraigned on July 27, 2007 on a 96-count charge. The EFCC, on February 11, 2008 amended the charge, raising it to112 counts. The defendants challenged the competence of the charge up to the Supreme, losing in every court. They also lost at the Supreme Court which, in a judgment on March 18 this year, dismissed their appeal and ordered them to submit themselves for trial.
Kalu and Udeogu were in court Monday when the case was called for mention.
Dressed in white native attire, Kalu mounted the dock, accompanied by Udeogu when the case was called.
Prosecution lawyer, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, handed a copy of the Supreme Court judgment to Justice Chikere and sought time for the prosecution to put its house in order.
“This matter was slated for mention today. On March 18, 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals by the defendants.
“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 seek an adjournment for the defendants to take their plea.”
Kalu’s lawyer, Awa Kalu (SAN) and Solomon Akuma (SAN), who represented Udeogu and Slok ,did not oppose the prosecution’s request for adjournment, following which the judge adjourned May 16 for the taking of the defendants’ plea.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court had while dismissing the appeals by Kalu and Udeogu on March 18, upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which also dismissed an earlier appealed by the defendants.
Justice Suleiman Galadima, who prepared the lead judgement of the Supreme Court, which read by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, held that the appeals were without merit.
“The appellant had approached the Federal High Court, Abuja to quash the charges made against him by the EFCC. The Court dismissed the case. We 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 dismissed.
“I affirm the decision of the court bellow, 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. The learned Chief Judge of the Federal High Court should assign the case to another judge for expeditious trial,” Justice Ngwuta said.
•Text courtesy of The Nation. Photo shows ex-Abia Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.
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