Former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday, denied allegations that he stole N7.2 billion while at the helm between 1999 and 2007. He said the state under him had no such money.
Kalu said this while continuing his testimony before Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court, Lagos, to prove his innocence of the allegation levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The former governor, while responding to a question from his lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN) over the allegation, disclosed that there was no way he could have stolen what was non-existence.
“Abia State didn’t have such amount. Even the day I was leaving, we borrowed money to pay salaries. Abia State didn’t have even a billion naira in any account at the time I was governor.”
To back his denial of the allegations, the former governor, who is currently the Chief Whip of the Senate, also spoke about the difficulties he encountered in running the state with allocations from Federal Government.
“The monthly allocation of Abia State when I took over in June 1999 was N168 million. It was averaging between N168 million and N172 million monthly. The first month that I came in, there was even no money to buy diesel. I spent my own money to run the state for six months. In the year 2000, monthly allocation was between N170 million and N189 million. In 2001, it came to about N302 million to about N380 million. I can recollect in 2002, it was almost the same and in 2003 when the revenue allocation was changed, we were having about N400 million.
“The highest money I got as governor came from 2004 when we had about N1 billion and from that time up till May 2007. Before I left, what we had was N1.6 billion. Throughout my stay in office, I never owed salary and pension. When I took over as governor and before I left, we moved internally generate revenue up to N500 million. It was from this that we were able to do a lot of things,” he said.
Kalu had earlier in his evidence told the court that he was a successful businessman before venturing into politics.
Speaking on his line of businesses before he began his political journey, he said: “I was running a group of companies under Slok Nigeria Ltd and I have a big furniture factory in Maiduguri. I was also trading in cows. The cows were coming from Chad to Umuahia. I also had a vegetable oil factory in Aba supplying to people in Kano and Maiduguri.
“I was also into shipping activities with major oil companies. We also have a very big corn farm in the East and Bauchi.
“We were a major shareholder before another shareholder bought off First Bank. In 1994, the then Hallmark Bank had a problem and I later bought majority stake in the bank. We also had major interests in banks in DRC, Gambia, Sieria-leone, Liberia and the then Sudan before crisis set in.”
He disclosed that he also deals in buying and selling of property.
He further disclosed that he made all his statements to the EFCC under bad treatment from some police officers.
“When I learnt they were looking for me, I called Ibrahim Lamorde that I was in the United States and that I will show up upon my return to the country.
“But when I returned to Nigeria, they were waiting for me at the airport and whisked me away to their office. After I was beaten up thoroughly by police officers, I asked them what my offence was and they told me I had been insulting President Obasanjo. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde later came to apologise to me.”
Further hearing in the matter continues today.