- Judgment unfair, says APC chair
By Ese Awhotu with agency report
A Federal High Court in Lagos, headed by Justice Mohammed Idris has sentenced former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, to 12 years’ imprisonment.
This was after the court found Kalu, and two others guilty of N7.65billion fraud.
The court found the second convict, his former commissioner of Finance Jonnes udeogo guilty of 34 counts.
The ex-governors co-defendants are his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and Mr Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
In an amended 39 counts, the EFCC accused them of conspiring and diverting N7.65bn from the coffers of the state.
In count one , the EFCC alleged that Mr Kalu, who was Abia State Governor between 1999 and 2007, procured Slok Nigeria Limited – a company solely owned by him and members of his family – to retain its account, domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc, Apapa branch, Lagos, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7
The prosecution claimed that the sum N7.1billion formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and therefore violating Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.
Apart from the N7.1billion, the ex-governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460million allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
The prosecutor said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
However, the defendants pleaded not guilty to all counts.
During the trial, the prosecution called 19 witnesses while the defendants testified on behalf of themselves.
Mixed reactions from two political party chieftains in Abia greeted Thursday’s judgment of a Lagos High Court on Kalu.
The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state, Donatus Nwankpa, said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he was disappointed and angry with the judgment.
Mr Nwankpa, who was a member of the Abia House of Assembly when Mr Kalu was governor, said that the judgment was not fair.“The party will meet to take a position on the judgment but as an individual, I am very saddened by the judgment.
“I am not convinced that judgment was given,” he said, adding that the court’s verdict sustained his doubts about the integrity and objectivity of the nation’s judiciary.”
Conversely, the Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council in Abia, Ceekay Igara, described the judgment as “good precedence.”
According to him, “if Kalu was found wanting as governor of the state, he should face judgment.
“It is a normal thing and goes to prove that nobody is above the law.”
Mr Igara, who is the state Chairman of the Labour Party, said that the judgment was supposed to teach two lessons.
He said, “The first lesson for those who are in government and second for others who intend to take over is that whatever they do, there is always a judgment day.”
Maduka Okoro, the South-East Media Aide to Mr Kalu, told NAN that Mr Kalu would appeal the judgment “to allow other judges and a higher court take another look at the case.”