N3.2bn fraud: Non Issuance of fresh ‘fiat’ stalls Kalu, others trial

Further hearing in the trial of a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and two others over alleged N3.2 billion fraud today, before a Federal High Court, Lagos, was stalled due to non issuance of fresh ‘fiat’ to the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, by the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa.

Kalu alongside his former Commissioner of Finance, Udeh Jones Udeogu and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited are being tried before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the alleged alleged fraud.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, upon the calling, the prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN), had informed the court that the matter is slated for continuation of trial of the defendants and that the former governor is not in court.

The prosecutor also told the court that at the last hearing of the case, the court had ordered that the former Governor who was absence and travelled out of the country without court’s permission, to submit himself and his travelling documents to this EFCC.

He told the court that upon returning to the country of the former Governor, he neither report to the EFCC after 24 hours nor return his travelling documents to the agency, adding that he has been going around campaigning for his electoral ambition. 

The former Governor’s action was flagrant disobedience to the court order, Jacobs told the court

However, while Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), was about replying to prosecutor’s submission, the presiding judge, Justice Idris, while addressing parties on the matter said he cannot continue with the matter, because he is yet to be issued fresh fiat by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa. 

“This matter was listed today because it was adjourned till today for defence. What has happened is that the last fiat that was issued by the President of the Court of Appeal has expired at the end of November 2018.

“On the 10th of January, 2019, I received fresh fiat in respect of some matters that I have started and some new matters but this particular case was not mentioned. 

For this reason, I have a strong feeling that I shouldn’t continue with proceedings in this case unless there is a further directive from the President of the Court of Appeal.

“I should not proceed further, otherwise I might be acting without authority. In the circumstance, I am of the view that further proceedings shouldn’t go on until I receive further information by way of fresh fiat from the Court of Appeal President. As soon as I receive further instruction, hearing notice will be sent to counsel”, the judge said.

Justice Idris was elevated to the Court of Appeal on June 13, 2018 and has been sitting on cases at the Federal High Court in Lagos each time fiat was issued to him by the President of the Court of Appeal. 

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