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Alleged N7.65bn Fraud: Appeal Court President Grants Fresh Fiat For Senator Uzor-Kalu's Trial


***As Case Resumes July 22

By Francis Iwuchukwu, Lagos 

Trial will on July 22, 2019,  continue in the N7.65bn fraud charge, slammed against the former governor of Abia State, and Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Dr. Orji Uzor-Kalu, before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris (now elevated to the Appeal Court).

This development came, consequent upon the fresh fiat issued by the President, Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.

According to the fresh fiat, the case which has been on since 13 years back is expected to run day to day from July 22 in the Federal High Court.

It would be recalled that Uzor-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.

At the last hearing of the fraud charge, Justice Idris had announced in the open court that he could not continue hearing in the trial of the former Abia State governor, on the reason that the fiat granted to him by the President of the Court of Appeal, did not cover the case involving that of the former governor.

Justice Idris had stated this while addressing lawyers, their clients and visitors.

The judge specifically argued that he needed authorization to enable him proceed further on the trial of the former Abia State governor.

According to Justice Idris, “I should not proceed further, otherwise, I will be acting without authority. 

“So, in the circumstance, I am of the view that further proceedings shouldn’t go on until I receive further instructions.” 

It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had accused Uzor-Kalu of committing the alleged offence between August 2001 and October 2005.

Aside the former governor, others being prosecuted is the state's former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Ltd.

Before the declaration of the judge, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told Justice Idris that despite an earlier order of the court, the former governor refused to submit himself or his travelling documents to the EFCC when he arrived from Germany where he had gone to attend to his health.

Jacobs had insisted that Uzor-Kalu's attitude constituted a clear disregard for the court.

The SAN therefore asked the court to give effect to the provisions of Section 352(4) of the ACJA and continue with the trial of the accused even in his absence.

In his response, lawyer to the former governor, Awa Kalu (SAN), stated his unhappiness with the contention of Jacobs and prayed the court to urge him to reduce same in an affidavit, to enable the defence respond accordingly.

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