FORMER Abia State governor Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has had its hearing for defrauding the government reset for June 7 after an Abuja high court rejected his motion that the matter be adjourned indefinitely when he appeared today.
Between 1999 and 2007, Senator Kalu served as the Abia State governor and it is his actions while in office that were probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). On December 5 2019, Senator Kalu was sentenced to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.65bn ($21m).
In February 2019 year, Senator Kalu, 59, was elected as the senator representing Abia North Senatorial District with a margin of over 10,000 votes despite the pending corruption charges against him. Later that year, he was convicted alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria and a former director of finance at the Abia State government house, Jones Udeogu.
However, on May 8 last year, his conviction for corruption and money laundering quashed by the Nigerian Supreme Court on a technicality that he was convicted by the wrong type of court. Senator Orji was released after the Supreme Court ruled that Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted him had been elevated to the Court of Appeal bench, so thus had no jurisdiction to hear his case.
Not giving up on the matter, the EFCC has filed a fresh case against Senator Kalu and today he appeared in court. Senator Kalu held that proceeding with the matter in the Abuja division of the court would be an exercise in futility but the trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, refused to adjourn the matter indefinitely and insisted that counsel should take a specific date to return to court.
He subsequently adjourned the matter until June 7 for a report on whether it should be transferred to Lagos or not. Justice Ekwo ruled: “Having rejected an application for an adjournment sine die, I hereby make an order adjourning this matter until June 7.”
In its ruling, the Supreme Court held that the judge in the original trial, Justice Mohammed Idris, was already elevated to the Court of Appeal, as at the time he sat and delivered judgement against Senator Kalu and his co-defendants. It noted that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at December 5, 2019, when the former governor and the other defendants were found guilty of charges against them.