The embattled former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, on Wednesday told a Federal High Court in Lagos that he had no case to answer with regard to the alleged fraud charges preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Kalu is being prosecuted alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited; and a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House, Mr. Ude Udeogu for alleged fraud.
The EFCC, in the charges, alleged that while he was governor of Abia State, Kalu siphoned funds running into over N2.9bn from the state’s treasury.
Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, informed Justice Mohammed Idris that he had filed a motion for no-case submission on behalf of his client, stating that the ex-governor had no case to answer with regard to the charges.
“A motion for no-case submission was filed on behalf of the 1st defendant on May 28 and it has been served on the prosecution,” Kalu said.
The other defence counsel, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN), and K. C. Nwofo (SAN), also informed the court that they had filed no-case submissions on behalf of the other defendants.
Earlier, the EFCC’s counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, had drawn the court’s attention to an amended charge filed by the anti-graft agency before the commencement of proceedings.
“We did inform the court at the last adjourned date that we wanted to file an amended charge.
“We have filed the amended charge this morning. We were also served with the defendants’ motion for no-case submission,” Adeniyi said.
In response, defence lawyers told the court that the defendants had not been served with any amended charge by the prosecution.
Akuma, however, drew the courts attention to the provisions of Section 216 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which he argued does not allow the prosecution to amend a charge without the leave of court.
He said that the prosecution ought to have applied by way of motion on notice for amendment, which would afford the defence an opportunity to be heard before the court could exercise its discretion for or against the application.
When the prosecution opted to serve the charge on defence counsel in court, Kalu objected on the grounds that the charge ought to be served personally on the accused and not on his counsel.
In a bench ruling, Justice Idris directed the service of the amended charge on the defendants inside the court.
The defence lawyers, however, sought for an adjournment to enable them to study the amended charge.
Justice Idris adjourned till June 13 for further hearing.
Kalu was accused of diverting the state funds into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited, a company, the EFCC claimed, was owned by Kalu and his family members.
Kalu was said to have allegedly diverted the funds in tranches of N200m, N50m, N200m, N300.8m, N545m, N429m, N288.4m, N190m, N157m, N152.8m, N100m, N84m and N50m between August 13, 2003, and January 12, 2005.
The offences were said to be contrary to Section 17 (c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003 and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.
The EFCC accused Slok Nigeria Limited of conniving with one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, to help Kalu retain the allegedly stolen funds in its accounts, when Slok Nigeria Limited “knew or at least suspected the said Orji Uzor Kalu to have engaged in a criminal conduct.”
The EFCC said the company was liable to punishment under Section 16 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.
The 2nd defendant, Udeogu, was accused of helping Kalu to pay part of the allegedly stolen funds into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited with the defunct FinBank Plc.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 427 of the Criminal Code Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.