Court says Orji Kalu must face trial for corruption

A former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu Friday lost his bid to free himself from prosecution as the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) leave to prosecute him.
Three justices of the court, Ejembi Eko, Kayode Bada and Regina Nwodo in a unanimous ruling dismissed the appeal filed by Mr. Kalu against an earlier ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja. The high court had ruled that Mr. Kalu had a case to answer in the 97-count charge bordering on corruption while in office filed against him by the EFCC.
According to a press statement by the EFCC, after the appellate court ruling, some of the issues raised by Mr. Kalu include “the declaration by the appeal court that the appellants were arraigned on non-existent law and that the proof of evidence did not disclose a prima facie case against the appellants.”
Mr. Kalu through his counsel, Awa Kalu, further stated that since the Abia State High Court had issued an ex-parte motion on the matter, the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case.
The two-term governor also “sought the leave of the appellate court to enforce his fundamental human rights by declaring his arrest, detention, and arraignment a nullity.”
Slok Nigeria Limited, a company owned by Mr. Kalu, which is also being prosecuted by the EFCC joined Mr. Kalu in his submissions but also wanted the appellate court to determine whether the EFCC and the Federal Government were competent to prosecute a case involving the revenue of a state.
While striking out the appeal for lack of merit, the court ruled that the proof of evidence attached to the 97-count charge preferred against the appellants by the EFCC disclosed a prima facie case against the former governor and others.
The court also denounced the ex-parte order of May 31, 2007 by the Abia State High Court.
“That order was an order at large, personal rather than definite. It was an order made as an ex-parte and not at the course of trial.”
The EFCC had on July 27, 2007 arraigned Mr. Kalu before an Abuja High court on a 107-count charge of money laundering, official corruption and criminal diversion of public funds totaling over five billion.
The former Governor wrote a letter, on August 5, 2007 to late President Umaru Yar’Adua, urging him to order the EFCC to discontinue the trial. He complained that the Commission failed to obey a May 31, 2007 Abia State High Court order for stay of proceedings pending the determination of a motion before it.

On September 3, 2007, he filed a motion at the Abuja High Court asking for an order to strike out all EFCC charges against him and to vacate the terms and conditions of the bail earlier granted by the court.

During the September 5, 2007 hearing of Kalu’s motions, a lawyer from the Attorney General’s office appearing for former Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa, urged the court to comply with the Abia High Court ruling. 

Earlier, both the EFCC lawyer and the Justice Minister’s representative clashed over which of them had the power to prosecute Kalu’s case. The matter was resolved in favour of the Attorney General.
Kalu Reacts
In his reaction to the appellate court’s ruling, the former presidential candidate through his media aide, Emeka Obasi, said he had no personal need of government funds.
“I didn’t need to steal Abia State funds when I was in government because I was already a fulfilled person before going into government.”
“My sole aim of going into government was to render service to the people of Abia State, and which I did to the best of my ability,” he said.
Mr. Kalu, who lost in the 2011 senatorial elections in Abia State, further stated that, “It was my personal money, made from rigorous work from my already established business empire, and support from friends, that I used in kick-starting the government of Abia State when I was inaugurated in 1999.
“There was virtually no money for the government to take off when I arrived.
“Before I became governor, my business empire was already running on auto pilot and I was very comfortable.
The former Governor expressed his readiness to face trial saying, “let the EFCC prove that I am guilty based on facts and figures and not just mentioning ridiculous figures it claimed I stole to draw public sympathy.”

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