Counsel to former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Charles Enwelunta, has expressed displeasure over the approach of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in prosecuting the charge preferred against his client.
Counsel of others defendants in fraud charge preferred against Kalu also expressed displeasure with what they described as the ‘prolonged’ trial of the accused persons.
Two other defendants standing trial with Kalu before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos, are Udeh Jones Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited.
Chief Enwelunta, who held brief for Awa Kalu (SAN) before the court, yesterday, expressed his feeling on the approach of the prosecution, and regretted that the prolonged trial is negatively taking its toll on the defendants.
“The defendants, who are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, are already having the feeling that they are being punished. Their businesses have suffered and they cannot plan for anything again because of this case. Even, we, as counsel, cannot plan our time for anything again because of this suit.
“At the last adjourned date, the prosecutor gave us an impression that he will close his case today (yesterday) but, I learnt that an additional proof of evidence containing names of seven new witnesses has again been filed by the prosecution. No one has an idea when the prosecution will close its case in this matter. I urged My Lord to intervene in this matter,” he said.
In his submissions, the second defendant’s lawyer, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN), noted that the prosecution’s case is becoming endless.
“My lord, we were just served further additional proof of evidence containing names of seven additional list of witnesses by the prosecution. This was after we were told that the prosecution will close its case today (yesterday). From all indications, prosecution of this case is becoming endless,” Akuma said.
The third defendant’s lawyer, K. C. Nwofor (SAN), also aligned himself with the views expressed by his colleagues.
In his reponse, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said there was no evidence that he is delaying the trial of the accused persons. He argued that the defendants should blame themselves for any perceived delay in the case.
“The case was filed since 2007 and the defendants challenged jurisdiction till 2015 before the Supreme Court made a final pronouncement on the issue. I cannot be forced to close my case because we need to bring the fact before the court,” Jacob said.
In his submissions, Justice Idris urged that every issue in the case be handled in accordance with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015. He also said it is not the court’s duty to give directions to the prosecution on how to handle its case.
EFCC’s lawyer had earlier examined an operative of the commission, Ovie Akpoyibo, who testified as the 13th prosecution witness.
In his testimony, the witness, who is serving at the Port Harcourt office of the commission, narrated how efforts to arrest one Micheal Akpan Udoh, who was a cashier at Abia State Government House during the Kalu’s tenure, has been unsuccessful.
He said: “In respect of M. A. Udoh, on January 15, 2018, I was instructed to go to Umuahia to locate his residence and, if possible, arrest him. When I got to Umuahia, I linked up with the state’s Attorney General and he called the Accountant General who took me to Udoh’s apartment.
“Operatives gained access into the property the next day. At the place, we met Udoh’s wife and daughter and we were told that the man travelled to Calabar.
“I later asked for his telephone number but I could not connect with him. I then left my phone number with the wife so that he could call me anytime he is around.”
The witness further revealed that efforts to serve court summons on Udoh, for him to appear as a witness in the case, has yielded no positive result.
Further hearing in the matter continues today.