Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
Lawyers of the former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, have concluded arrangements to file a stay of execution and bail pending appeal on his behalf following his conviction over charges of N7.2 billion fraud brought against him and two others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos in his judgment, convicted Kalu, former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Ltd, of the alleged offences.
Reacting to the court’s judgment, one of Kalu’s lawyers, Chief Charles Ewelunta, confirmed that the legal team had obtained the Certified True Copy (CTC) and would study the judgment to guide the counsel in filing an appeal.
The counsel noted that before the appeal, the team will file applications for a stay of execution and bail pending appeal on Kalu’s behalf, which are permissible in law.
In his judgment, Justice Idris chronicled all counts and pronounced Kalu, Udeogu and Slok guilty.
In his sentence to Kalu, Justice Idris said: “On counts one, two, three, and four, you are sentenced to five years imprisonment on each count. On counts six to 11, you are sentenced to three years imprisonment each. On counts 23 to 33 you are sentenced to three years imprisonment on each count, while on counts 34 to 38, you are sentenced to 12 years imprisonment each. On count 39, you are sentenced to five years imprisonment.”
For the second defendant, (Udeogu) the court sentenced him to three years imprisonment on counts 23 to 33, and 10 years imprisonment on counts 34 to 38. He was also sentenced to five years imprisonment on counts 39.
For the Company, Slok Nigeria Ltd, the court ordered that it be wound up and all its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
The court held that the terms of imprisonment shall run concurrently.
Kalu and others were on October 31, 2016 arraigned, wherein they pleaded not guilty. The charges were amended on July 16, 2018.
In May 2018, Justice Idris who sat as trial judge in the charge against Kalu, was elevated to the Court of Appeal. He, however, continued to conduct trial following a fiat from the Appeal Court President authorising him to conclude the case.
Following accelerated hearing, Idris concluded trial of the defendants in August 2019 and adjourned the case for adoption of addresses. On October 22, both the prosecution and defence counsels adopted their written submissions before the court, and Justice Idris consequently reserved judgment until December 2, 2019.
On December 2, judgment day was shifted to today.