Appeal Court affirms Orji Kalu’s conviction for stealing Abia funds

Orji Uzor Kalu [ PHOTO: TheCable]
Orji Uzor Kalu [ PHOTO: TheCable]

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed an appeal filed by Slok Nigeria Limited challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, Lagos, which convicted former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor-Kalu.

Mr Kalu, a serving senator, was jailed alongside Udeh Udeogu, his Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Mr Kalu’s tenure.

The former governor was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing public funds while in office. Mr Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A third defendant, Mr Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Nigerian government.

They were convicted for defrauding the Government of Abia State when Mr Kalu was governor.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) had brought the criminal charge against the duo for conspiring and diverting N7.65 billion from the coffers of the state.

After their conviction, Slok and Mr Udeogu filed an appeal on technical grounds. They claimed that the Federal High Court in Lagos did not have the power to try them because that was not where the offence was committed.

The appellants were Slok and Mr Udeogu while the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the EFCC and Mr Kalu were respondents respectively.

However, the argument of the appellants was rejected by the court of appeal. The three judges who presided said in a judgement delivered by one of them, Olabisi Ige, that the appeal was lacking in merit, Punch Newspaper reported.

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Justice Ige held that section 98(3) and (4) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act(ACJA) 2015, were not applicable to the appellants’ case.

The appellate court held that a petition must relate to an allegation of wrongdoing by the trial judge.

“Nothing is perverted with the decision of the trial court. The complaint of the appellants is a non-issue.

“If a court has jurisdiction/power, the fact of doing so under a wrong law is no reason to set it aside. The rights of the appellants were not infringed,” the judge said.

The appellate court further held that the appellants did not show mala side (bad faith) by the chief judge and EFCC.

The court added that there was no element of forum-shopping in the case.

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The judges upheld the judgement of the lower court, meaning Messrs Kalu and Udeogu will continue to serve their jail terms while Slok would be wound up as ordered by the lower court.

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