Alleged N7.6bn Fraud: Absence of lawyer stalls Kalu’s trial
The trial of the former Governor of Abia State, and the lawmaker representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, has been stalled at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
Senator Kalu’s trial could not continue on Monday as a result of the absence of his counsel who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Awa Kalu.
Although the former governor was present in court, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, was informed that Professor Kalu was ill.
The message came through the second defendants’ counsel, Mr Kelvin Nwofo (SAN), who told the court that he came into Lagos on Sunday with Professor Kalu who suddenly took ill.
Mr Nwofo then asked the court to grant an adjournment to enable the professor to recover.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr Adebisi Adeniyi, had no objections to the request for an adjournment and Justice Idris subsequently adjourned proceedings until Tuesday, August 27.
The former governor is standing trial before Justice Idris on an alleged N7.6bn fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC arraigned him in November 2016 alongside the second defendant, his former Commissioner for Finance, Jones Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Ltd, which is the third defendant, on an amended 39-count of fraud-related offences.
They had all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
At the last sitting of the court on July 22, Senator Kalu finally opened his defence on the allegations against him.
He took the witness box in his own defence and was only able to testify for about seven minutes before the proceedings were adjourned until August 26.
In giving his testimony, the former governor was only able to state his name, address, occupation and the number of counts for which he was standing trial before the proceedings was truncated by Professor Kalu who asked for an adjournment to enable him adequately prepare for the trial.
At the last adjourned date, Justice Idris had also told the parties that by a fiat dated July 8, the President of the Court of Appeal had directed that “I conclude this part-heard matter.”
“Trial will now run from day-to-day until we finish,” he said.