A prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, on Wednesday told a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court that the former governor did not, between 2001 and 2005, issue bank drafts or pay anyone any amount. The witness said the only money paid was a N2.5 million issued from a draft from the Uzor Kalu campaign fund.
Mr. Kalu, his company Slok Nigeria Limited, and his former aide, Udeh Udeogu, are facing a 34-count amended charge bordering on money laundering and fraud amounting to N3.2 billion.
The accused persons were alleged to have diverted the money from Abia State government’s treasury between 2001 and 2005.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Justice Idris Mohammed ruled that documents tendered by a prosecution witness in the trial of the former Abia State governor, and others are admissible.
The defence lawyers had objected to the document, tendered by Onovai Ovenevoh, a staff of Fidelity Bank Plc, on the grounds that it was stamped and signed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and not the bank.
The defence had earlier objected to Mr. Ovenevoh giving evidence in the trial, but their objection was turned down by the judge on Tuesday.
“I agree that the written document by Fidelity Bank is an original document,” Mr. Idris said in his ruling on Wednesday morning.
“This document is admissible since it is an original document and needs no certification by the EFCC
“I hold that once the letter dated October 13th, 2006, has been validly accepted, the documents attached goes with it. The letter of October 13th, 2006, and its attachment are hereby admitted as a whole in evidence and marked as exhibit A1.”
During cross examination of the witness, counsel to the first defendant, Mike Ozekhome, asked the witness if the former governor’s name or that of his company, Slok, appeared as individuals who authorized the drafts numbering 23.
Mr. Onovai answered in the negative.
“Draft number 205 was issued from the Orji Uzor Kalu campaign fund and is N2.5million,” the witness said.
“The draft was not also issued from Government House, Umuahia, and in the whole of exhibit A, there is no other document or draft paid for or issued by Orji Uzor Kalu”.
The witness also admitted to not being the maker of the document but was a signatory to the written document sent from Fidelity bank to the EFCC.
“I was not the maker of this document and I was not part of those who drafted the document, neither did I supervise the making of the document, I was only a co-signatory. There is one Oye Ogunmole who is my supervisor”
Between 2002 and 2005 when the fraud was said to have been perpetrated, the witness told the court that he had never worked at the defunct Manny bank which later merged with two other banks. He added that he does not know how government operations are carried out.
When asked if he had written any statement to the EFCC in 2006 when the matter came up initially, Mr. Onovai said that, “I never made any written statement under caution to the EFCC when this matter brewed. The only witness statement I made to the EFCC was the one I made two days ago when proceedings were already going on and I never partook in any of the transactions from the beginning.”
The prosecution’s second witness, Christiana Ohiri, a United Bank of Africa (UBA) manager in Umuahia, Abia State, told the court that the Abia State government had several accounts with the bank amongst which include the Abia State Board of Internal Revenue account, Abia State Judiciary, and the Government House, Umuahia, account.
When prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, sought to tender the statement of account of the Government House, Umuahia, and the letter written by the UBA, Umuahia branch, to the EFCC to be admitted as exhibits in the court, the defence counsels objected to the admissibility of the documents on the grounds that “the documents have no certification and that the account number is of a bank that has no bank logo.”
“We are just seeing papers they say they want to tender and certification is a legal requirement under the evidence act,” Mr. Ozekhome said.
He further said that “the three pages that has the bank logo do not have any certification pursuant to section 84 of the evidence act. So either way the two documents are fundamentally flawed.”
Mr. Ozekhome also raised objection to the appearance of the witness on the grounds that her name was not listed among the 19 witnesses enlisted in the document.
“In fact, I urge my lord to reject to the testifying of the PW2 in this matter. I seriously object to the appearing of the witness, she does not have any business here. Apart from objecting to the documents I totally object to the appearance of the witness. Why are they ambushing us, they should let us know who is coming to testify in this matter and not taking us by surprise or by ambush.”
Responding, Mr. Jacobs said the objections of the defence counsels were unfounded and that they were raising the same objections they raised the day before which was overruled and urged the court to disregard their objection.
“These attachments with the document are part of the main document which my lord ruled yesterday that once the main document is admissible the other attachments are also admissible,” he said.
“I adopt your lordship ruling and urge my lord to adopt the documents and adjudge it admissible. From the beginning, they are aware that this witness has been the one we have been calling since 2007 and I don’t think we are hiding anything and we don’t deserve the comments made.”
On Tuesday, Justice Idris had ruled that Mr. Onovai, the prosecution’s first witness, was competent to give evidence in the trial.
The judge adjourned till to March 9 for ruling and continuation of trial.
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