N3.2B Fraud: Court Revokes Orji Kalu’s Bail
Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
A Federal High Court, Lagos, today, revoked the bail earlier granted to former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu for breaching the terms of the bail by traveling out of the country without the permission of the court.
Justice Mohammed Idris, who presided over the court also ordered the former governor to submit himself and all his traveling documents to the Economy and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) within 24 hours on his return to the country.
It will be recalled that the judge had last Monday gave Kalu seven days ultimatum to return to Nigeria from Germany, where he was said to have gone for a treatment or risk the revocation of his bail.
However, at the resumed hearing of the matter today, the former governor was conspicuously absent in court, but was represented by his lawyer, S.E Eleme.
The lawyer tendered a medical report from Kalu’s Doctors in Germany, which stated that the accused person would required 12 weeks to recuperate from the surgical operation.
When the judge reminded him of the terms of his client bail, which states that he must deposit his Nigerian Passport and any other traveling documents that he has to the court and that he can only travel outside the country with the leave of the court.
Eleme told the court that his client travel under an emergency situation, which did not permit him to apply for the court’s permission. But did not answered the question of how the accused person got the passport with which he travelled outside the country. Rather, the lawyer pleaded with the court to have mercy on his client and also consider the fact that he had so far conducted himself properly before the court since his trial started in 2007.
He said, “the first defendant has shown exemplar commitment to his trial until the matter of his health, which he has no control over.
“So we urged the court to grant an adjournment for a period of time that would be adequate for the first defendant to conclude his rehabilitation,” he said.
However, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs submitted that when the case was adjourned indefinitely on September 27, the accused person through his lawyers approached him that their client was sick and he needs to travel outside the country for treatment.
Jacobs said that they agreed that he should go and treat himself, but instead of doing so the former governor was engaged in politicking.
He claimed, ” He contested and won his political party’s primary in his home state, so it was his fault that he did not treat himself before the trial resumed.
“Though I later got information that they wrote to the Chairman of the EFCC informing the agency of the trip, if the letter had been brought to my knowledge, I would have advised them to seek the permission of the court as the anti-graft agency does not process the power to grant him leave to travel abroad, ” the lawyer maintained.
In his ruling, Justice Idris held that although he recognised the right of the accused person to free movement, he is in breach of the term of his bail.
The judge also stated that the action of the accused person cannot be accepted by the court as no one is above the law.
He held,” It is not acceptable that someone would break the law and expect that nothing would happen. It is a serious offence for someone to travel outside the country in violation of a valid court order.
“I will allow the accused person to enjoy his treatment without any harassment or intimidation from the court or security agencies, but upon his arrival in the country he must submit himself to the EFCC.
“If we must have peace and stability in this country the law must be enforced and the court must not be afraid to enforce the law to ensure sanity in the society.
“So the bail of the accused person us hereby revoked and he must submit himself and his passport to the EFCC at the point of entry unt further orders of the court are made.
“The matter of hereby adjourned till January 23, 2019 for continuation of trial.
The EFCC is prosecuting Kalu, his Commissioner for Finance, Udeh Jones Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited on an amended 39 count charge.
They were alleged to have used the following banks to perpetrate the alleged fraud, Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc,( now Heritage Bank), the defunct Standard Trust Bank, now United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
The alleged offences according to the EFCC are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the same Act.