A former governor of Abia state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has asked a Federal High Court in Lagos to discharge and acquit him of the fraud charge instituted against him and two others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Kalu said the prosecution has failed woefully to establish a prima facie case against him that would warrant him being called upon to open his defence in the matter.
Kalu in a no case submission application filed before the court presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, through his lawyer, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), after the prosecution closed its case, argued that the entirety of the evidence of the prosecution witnesses not only woefully bears no relationship with the charge but also failed to establish any linkage or nexus with him.
Contrary to EFCCs claims, Kalu maintained that there was no evidence whatsoever or facts leading to any reasonable inference that he in any manner whatsoever ‘procured’ by initiating a proceeding to cause a thing to be done, instigated, contrived, bring about, effect or cause the third defendant (Slok Nig. Ltd) to retain any monies whatsoever in its account from the treasury of Abia State Government.
It was disclosed that, “The prosecution throughout the length and breadth of its case, never led any evidence of any board resolution of the third defendant company to accept any fund whatsoever from the first defendant (Dr. Kalu).
“The prosecution also failed to show any instruction whatsoever from the first defendant to the second defendant (Udeh Jones Udeogu) to receive any fund from the treasury of Abia state and no evidence was led to show any instruction or authorization from the first defendant to the second defendant to pay any funds whatsoever to the account of the third defendant.
“The feeble and indeed futile attempt by the prosecution to show that the first defendant remained as the chairman of the third defendant even after assuming office as the Executive Governor of Abia State was clearly and manifestly discredited under cross-examination as the first defendant was shown to have resigned his membership of the third defendant since 1999”.
It was further submitted that the guilty knowledge or ‘mens rea’ is an essential ingredient that is missing in the charge thus rendering it fundamentally bad.
Besides, it was noted that it is more than a coincidence that almost all the prosecution witnesses had neither known nor met the first defendant before, except of course the EFCC investigators in whose custody he was detained.
It was alleged that documents in possession of the prosecution that are favourable to the first defendant were not produced and tendered by the prosecution. These documents which were frontloaded were suppressed and had to be produced and tendered at the instance and insistence of the defence.
It was further submitted that there was no nexus between the cash withdrawals by the second defendant and others and the bank drafts which were purchased by cash.
“There was no direct eye witness account that the same cash that was withdrawn by persons like M. A. Udoh, Okey Ude, I. D. Okoro and R. K. Madu, was exactly the same cash that was utilized in purchasing the bank drafts by cash. Even more fatal for the prosecution is the fact that no draft was drawn on the Abia State Treasury Account or on the Abia State Government House Accounts and even worse is the fact that none of the drafts was made out to be payable to the third defendant.
While urging the court to dismiss the case in its entirety, Kalu insisted that there was no evidence, direct or circumstantial in support of conspiracy on his part and other defendants.
The other defendants have equally filed separate motions for no case submissions asking the court to clear them of the alleged fraud charge.
Justice Idris has adjourned further hearing in the matter till June 13.
Kalu alongside his former aide, Udeh Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, are facing trial before the court on an amended 34 count-charge of alleged N3.2 billion fraud.
EFCC in an amended charge marked FHC/L/56C/08, Dr. Kalu and other defendants were alleged to have allegedly diverted about N3.2 billions from Abia State Government’s treasury between 2001 and 2005.
They were also alleged to have used the following banks to perpetrate the alleged fraud, Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
In counts one to 10, Uzor Kalu was alleged to have between August 13, 2003 and August 10, 2005, while he was the Abia State Governor, procured Slok Nigeria Limited, the company solely belongs to him and his family members, retained in his account domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc, the total sum of N2. 502, 600 billion, which formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through defunct Manny Bank which were converted into several bank drafts before they were paid into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited.
In counts 11 to 20, Slok Nigeria Limited and one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have between April 29, 2003 and August 10, 2005, retained in their various accounts domiciled with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank now FCMB, the total sum of N2.493 billion, on behalf of Orji Kalu, who was then the Executive Governor of Abia State, and that the money formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of the state government, through Manny Bank.
In count 22 to 33 of the charge, Kalu, Udeh Jones Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Emeka Abone, who were said to be at large, were alledged to have between August 13, 2003 and August 10, 2005, collaborated and concealed the genuine origin of the total sum of N2.187,400 billion, which formed parts of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government, through Manny Bank and converted and paid the said sum into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited, with the Apapa branch of First Inland Bank Plc.
While in count 34, Orji Uzor Kalu, Udeh Jones Udeogu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Emeka Abone said to be at large, between May 2002 and December 2005, conspired among themselves to commit offence of money laundering of funds Illegally derived from the treasury of Abia State government.
The alleged offences according to the EFCC are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the same Act.