LAGOS, Nigeria – A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday adjourned until Dec. 5, judgment an N7. 2 billion fraud suit against former Gov. Orji Kalu of Abia.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Kalu and a former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Ude Udeogo.
Also charged along with Kalu is a company, Slok Nig. Ltd.
The judgement could not be delivered on Monday (Dec. 2) following absence of Justice Mohammed Idris.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had on Oct. 31, 2016, brought a 34-count charge against the defendants.
The charge was later increased to 39 counts.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to all the counts and were granted bail.
NAN reports that Idris, who tried the case, has been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
He consequently conducted and concluded the trial by fiat.
Following the accelerated hearing, Idris concluded trial in August.
On Oct. 22, both the prosecution and defence counsel adopted their written submissions before the court.
The judge then reserved judgement now to be delivered on Dec. 5.
NAN reports that on Nov. 12, 2018, Kalu was absent for his trial, after being absent on a previous adjourned date – Nov. 5, 2018.
Although defence counsel informed the court that he was away for medical treatment in Germany, the court revoked his bail and ordered that at his return to Nigeria, he must submit himself and his travel documents to the EFCC, or be arrested.
In the charge, the EFCC said the defendants committed the alleged offences between August 2001 and October 2005.
It said that Kalu utilised his company’s account to retain N200 million in First Inland bank (now First City Monument Bank).
The commission claimed that the sum formed part of the funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia State Government.
In one of the counts, Kalu’s company (Slok Nig. Ltd.) and one Emeka Abone said to be at large, were alleged to have retained in the company’s account, the sum of N200 million on behalf of the ex-governor.
In counts one to 10, the defendants were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion belonging to Abia state.
The EFCC said that the defendants diverted over N7.2 billion from Abia government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as the governor, in contravention of Sections 15(6), 16 and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.
The commission said the offences also contravenes the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended.