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Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Senator Orji Uzor-Kalu Opens Defence

SENATOR ORJI UZOR-KALU 

BY FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU, LAGOS

A senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, FRN, representing Abia North Senatorial district, Orji Uzor- Kalu on Monday opened his defence before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris (Now elevated to the Appeal Court).

Uzor-Kalu, who was the former governor of Abia State opened his defence consequent upon the renewal of the fiat granted by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to Justice Idris to conclude the matter which is part heard.

Senator Uzor-Kalu alongside two others are standing trial on a 34 counts charge that has to do with fraud to the tune of over N7.6 billion fraud.

Others standing trial alongside the former governor are  Slok Nigeria Limited and the state’s former Commissioner of Finance, Udeh Jones Udeogu.

It would be recalled that the defendants were brought before Justice Idris by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

During today's sitting on the criminal case, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) intimated Justice Idris that the matter is for the defence to open their case, as the prosecution had closed its case.

However, Uzor-Kalu's lawyer, Awa Kalu (SAN) in responding stated that he had by a letter dated July 15, 2019, after receiving the notice of hearing informed the court that he will not be available today on the grounds of the election petition he is managing.

The SAN argued that he took the decision to come to the court in person so as to explain his predicament. 

According to him, “My lord I have to run to Lagos without the case file because my secretary is bereaved and not in Abuja, for that reason, I would not be able to proceed.”

The senior lawyer further told the court that the second explanation he has is that the second and third defendants were not represented and that since the trial is a joint one, it would be improper to proceed in their absence. 

Awa subsequently requested for an adjournment which would be  convenient for all the parties.

In his reply, Jacobs (SAN) urged Justice Idris to direct the former Abia governor to open his defence even if not much to show that at least something tangible has been done and achieved for the day.

In his ruling, Justice Idris held that, "Since counsel to second and third defendants were served with the notice of hearing for the day and they were absent and did not deem it fit to send any of the counsel that have been appearing with them in the matter, the proceedings of the day will go on in their absence".

While being led in evidence by his lawyer, Senator Uzor-Kalu revealed that he earned a living as a manufacturer of home made goods until few weeks ago when he became a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The former governor specifically pointed out that he was into manufacturing of Tomato paste and other household use.

Justice Idris has since adjourned the criminal case until August 26, for continuation of trial at 10 a.m.

Uzor-Kalu alongside others were first arraigned on the said counts on October 31, 2016.

But they had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The prosecution after calling several witnesses and tendered several exhibits which were admitted by the court, closed its case, which made the defendants to file a no-case-submission.

However, the defendants' no-case-submission was dismissed by the court on July 31, 2018.

The development however made the court to call on the defendants to open their defence on the allegations.

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