The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday closed its case at the on-going trial of a former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and two others over alleged fraud before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
The anti-graft agency closed its case after the conclusion of cross-examination of its last witness by defence lawyers. At yesterday’s proceedings, the court admitted the statement of a former Abia State ALGON Chairman, Chinedu Melechi, wherein he disclosed that expenditures in the joint account of state and local governments are either statutory or by resolution.
An EFCC’s witness, Chidi Chukwuka, had on Thursday told the court that in line with code of conduct for public office holders, Dr. Kalu declared his assets at both his first term in office in 1999 and upon his re-election in 2003.
While being cross-examined by Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), the witness disclosed that a petition authored by a former Deputy Governor of Abia State, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, against Dr. Kalu, was the basis of the investigation carried out by his team.
The witness said he was not aware that Senator Abaribe was impeached while serving as Deputy Governor to Dr. Kalu by the Abia State House of Assembly.
He added that his team was also not concerned about the fact that there might be ‘bad blood’ between Abaribe and Kalu owing to the former’s impeachment.
“We are not conscious of the fact that there might be bad blood between the 1st defendant (Dr. Kalu) and his impeached deputy. We only looked at the issues raised in the petition without any emotion”, the witness said.
The witness further declared that contrary to insinuations contained in the petition, a $1.7m Potomac, Washington house, bought by Dr. Kalu in 2003 was funded from an offshore account in the United States.
He added that the former governor did not write anything concerning the Potomac house in his statement to the commission because he was not questioned about it.
The witness also claimed that it was not aware that former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote ex-American President, George Bush, over the house.
He equally denied knowledge of the existence of any similar correspondence between Obasanjo and then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.
“I suggest to you that it was not only the EFCC that was interested in the property in Exhibit W1. I said so because the then President Olusegun Obasanjo had correspondence with then US President, George W. Bush,” Kalu’s lawyer said confronting Chukwuka.
“You may not also be aware that Obasanjo was in correspondence with then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, with respect to some property,” Kalu’s lawyer also suggested to the witness.
Asked by the SAN whether the EFCC discovered in the course of its investigations that the former governor acquired a “family house” in Boston, Massachusetts, “as far back as 1997”, Chukwuka said he did not investigate the property.
“We are aware that the first defendant, by Nigerian standard, it is possible he has a house in the US but the house in the US was not subject to investigation; so, we did not pay attention to that,” he added.
“Did you find out that the area where that family house was located had racial issue on account of which he put it up for sale?” the lawyer asked the investigator. “It was not part of our investigation,” the witness responded.
Further hearing in the matter has been adjourned to May 30 for the defendants to open their case.