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Alleged N3.2bn theft: EFCC re-arraigns Orji Kalu, others



A former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu; his ex-aide, Jones Udeogo and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, were on Tuesday arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, nine years after their cases were stalled.

Also, the EFCC on Tuesday arraigned the immediate past Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin (retd.) and three others for alleged diversion of N600m.

Kalu and others had been initially arraigned in 2007 before Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja (now retired).

They were arraigned in an amended 34-count charge over an alleged diversion of about N3.2bn from the Abia State Government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.

Before their arraignment, Kalu and others had argued against the proceedings, and urged the court to await the pending appeal by Slok pending at the Supreme Court.

But Justice Anwuri Chikere rejected their objection to their arraignment and ordered that the charges be read to them.

When the changes were read to them, the accused persons pleaded not guilty, while  the court granted them bail on the terms attached to the bail earlier granted them on April 30, 2008 when they were earlier arraigned before Justice Bello.

The court adjourned the case till December 6 for the commencement of trial.

After pleading not guilty to the charges, lawyer to the ex-governor, Awa Kalu (SAN), urged the court to allow them to remain on the bail earlier granted them.

He gave to the court a copy of the enrolled orders made in 2008 by Justice Bello, granting bail to Kalu and Udeogo.

Counsel for Udeogo, Solomon Akuma (SAN), aligned with Kalu’s lawyer and urged the court to adopt Justice Bello’s position.

The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), did not however object to the position canvassed by the defence lawyers, saying he was interested in their trial.

Others the EFCC arraigned with Jibrin include Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu (retd.), who was the Commander, Central Pay Office; and Rear Admiral Bala Mshelia (retd.), who is a former Chief of Naval Accounts and Budget.

The EFCC also arraigned a firm, Habour Bay International Limited, which allegedly helped the accused persons to perpetrate the fraud.

The ex-naval officers were arraigned before Justice A. S Umar of the FCT High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja on four counts bordering on criminal conspiracy.

The anti-graft agency alleged that the naval chiefs whilst in office allegedly bought a house worth N600m from the account of Naval Engineering Services without the said purchase contract being captured in the budget.

It was also alleged that the documentation for transfer of ownership of the property was done such that a private company owned by the family of Jibrin became the buyer.

The offence is in contravention of Section 26 (1) (b) and punishable under Section 22 (4) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission Act 2000.

The defendants pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.

In view of their plea, counsel for the EFCC, Abdullah Faruk, asked the court for a date for commencement of trial.

However, Y. C. Maikyau, (SAN), representing Jibrin and the firm, through an oral application made pursuant to Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution sought for the bail of his clients.

Maikyau told the court that the defendants had been enjoying administrative bail granted them by the EFCC and had never breached any of its terms.

The counsel stated that though he had earlier filed and served the prosecution with a formal bail application, he felt the need to move an oral application subject to the discretion of the court.

Counsel representing Mshelia and Ahmadu also requested bail based on Jibrin’s argument.

Justice Umar after listening to the submissions of counsel on both sides, remanded the accused persons and adjourned till Wednesday (today) for  hearing on the bail application.Punch