Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, September 27 adjourned sine die the trial of a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, over his alleged involvement in a N7.6 billion fraud.
Mr Kalu is standing trial alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N7.6bn.
The matter had been adjourned to today for the defence to open its case.
However, at the resumed hearing, Justice Idris informed the court that the fiat issued to him by the President of the Court of Appeal would expire tomorrow, September 28.
The judge, who was elevated to the appellate court sometime in June 2018, was issued a fiat to conclude some of the criminal cases that are before him by the end of this month.
The judge also said that in line with the ongoing nationwide strike, it might be impossible for the defence team to conclude its defence.
He, however, sought the opinion of counsel on the way forward.
Counsel to the first defendant, Awa Kalu, urged the court to adjourn the matter on the grounds it might be impossible to conclude the trial in view of the underlying issues. “My Lord, we are ready to open our case.
“However, it may be an exercise in futility to start now only to stop tomorrow.
“We have two witnesses before the court, who will need to defend before this matter is brought to conclusion and that may seem impossible because of the expiration of the fiat.
“It may, therefore, be prudent to determine the faith of the fiat before we continue.”
The counsel to the second and third defendants, Solo Akuma and K.C. Nwofo, aligned with the submissions of Mr Kalu.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, however, opposed the applications of the defence team.
He argued that the case had been previously adjourned to today for the defence to open its case.“My Lord, this is the sixth time the defence team is asking for adjournment.
“I urge the court to discountenance the submissions of the defence team and call on them to commence; and if they don’t finish, we can re-apply for renewal of the fiat,” he further said.
Justice Idris, in a short ruling, held that it might seem impossible for the defence to finish today.
“In line with the ongoing strike, the matter will be adjourned sine die,” he added.
The judge also held that either party was at liberty to apply to the President of the Court of Appeal for the renewal of the fiat in line with the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, ACJA.
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