Story by Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, today, convicted and sentenced former Governor of Abia State and a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years imprisonment over N7. 2 billion fraud and money laundering.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for 12 years have been prosecuting Kalu alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Udeh Jones Udeogo, who also bagged 15 years jail term for the same offence and Kalu’s Company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
The EFCC had on October 31, 2016, made a 34 count-charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against the accused.
The charges were however, on July 16, 2018, subsequently amended, and the charge increased to 39 counts with the sum increased to N7.2 billion.
The convicts had each pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were granted bails.
However, in May 2018, Justice Idris who sat as trial judge in the charge against Kalu, was elevated to the Court of Appeal. But was granted a Fiat by the President of the Court of Appeal to continue and decide the case.
Following accelerated hearing, Justice Idris concluded trial of the defendants in August 2019 and adjourned the case for adoption of addresses.
On October 22, both the prosecution and defence counsel respectively adopted their written submissions before the court and the matter was adjourned for judgment.
While delivering judgment today, Justice Idris, who came into the court at exactly 9.10a.m. informed parties that the judgment was 288 pages.
In his judgement, Justice Idris chronicled all counts of the charge, and found Kalu and his company guilty of all the 39 counts. While the second defendant (Udeogo) was pronounced guilty of 34 counts of the charge.
Justice Idris sentenced Kalu as follows: “on counts one, two, three, and four, he sentenced the convict to five years imprisonment on each count, while on counts six to 11, he sentenced him to three years imprisonment each.
On counts 23 to 33 the judge sentenced Kalu to three years imprisonment on each count, while on counts 34 to 38, he sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment each.
On the last count 39, he sentenced him to five years imprisonment.
For the second convict, Udeogu, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment on counts 23 to 33, and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment on counts 34 to 38, while he sentenced him to five years imprisonment on counts 39.
For the Company, Slok Nigeria Limited, the court ordered that it should be wound up and all its assets forfeited to the Federal government.
Justice Idris held that the terms of imprisonment shall run concurrently.