Reactions trail Kalu’s 12 years conviction for N7.65bn fraud

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Reactions have continued to trail the outcome of court ruling that sentence former governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu for 12 years imprisonment over N7.65 billion fraud.

Kalu, who currently represents Abia North Senatorial District in the 9th Senate, was sentenced to 12 years in jail after Justice Idris Mohammed found him guilty of all 39 counts filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

A former Director of Finance and Accounts under Kalu’s tenure as Abia governor,  Ude Udeogu, also bagged 10 years imprisonment after being found guilty on 34 counts. The ex-governor’s company, SLOK limited, was ordered to be wound up by the court.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and some other civil society groups on Thursday lauded the 12 years prison sentence handed down to ex-Governor  by a Federal High Court in Lagos.

The Executive Director of SERAP, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, hailed the judiciary for justice delivery. Mumuni said that the judiciary was  playing its part in the anti-graft war.

“What we see now is that the judiciary is trying to live up to expectations; what must be done has to be done. The facts of the case have been properly reviewed, evidence thoroughly analysed; there is no basis for querying the judgment; however, let us see the reaction of Orji Uzor Kalu’s counsel to the verdict.

“If his counsel wants to appeal, they have the right to do so, but if the allegations and evidence are anything to go by, I believe justice has been properly served irrespective of whoever is involved,” he said.

Reacting also, President Muhammadu Buhari’s personal assistant on social media, Lauretta Onochie, hailed the judgment in a tweet.

Onochie noted that Kalu was convicted despite belonging to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

In its reaction, the APC, United Kingdom chapter, hailed the EFCC for securing the judgement against Kalu who is the current Chief Whip of the Senate.

However, the National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu noted the role the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) played in the speedy trial of the case.

Ugwummadu hailed the provisions ACJA which prevented the trial from starting de novo (from the beginning) when the trial judge was elevated to the Court of Appeal.

“The speed with which this case was adjudicated has everything to do with the ACJA that now allows that a trial judge, though elevated, can return to conclude an ongoing criminal proceeding.

“The ACJA is explicit, it is proactive, it is definitive, it allows a judge, who started a trial and got elevated to a superior court, to return to conclude  proceedings.

“This is exactly what happened here.  Orji Uzor Kalu was arraigned before Justice Mohammed Idris, who within the period of the trial, was elevated to the Court of Appeal. Today, he delivered that judgment.

“To that extent, it is remarkable because it touches on the speedy dispensation of justice. What obtained before now, was  the matter  starting de novo with the transfer or elevation of the judge,” he said.

According to the CDHR president, the judgment proved that no individual is above the law.

“The law remains the law. The fact that Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu defected  to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not provide a cover for him.

“This judgment has established a precedent; but giving the caliber of the defendant, we are likely going to see an appeal against the judgment,” Ugwummadu said.

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