By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — Former Governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the competence of the 107-count criminal charge preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The embattled ex-governor is contending that the Abuja Division of the Appeal Court miscarried justice against him by giving the anti-graft agency the nod to prosecute him over allegations he said were baseless.
The appellate court had dismissed Kalu’s appeal, saying it was satisfied that the EFCC successfully established a prima facie criminal case that would warrant his trial.
Kalu approached the appellate court following the refusal of Justice Adamu Bello to quash any of the substantive charges before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
However, in-line with an order of the appellate court, the high court, yesterday, resumed hearing on the case, with the accused ex-governor informing the trial judge that he has taken the case before the apex court.
In an oral application he made yesterday, Kalu urged Justice Bello to hands off the case pending the hearing and determination of his appeal before the Supreme Court, a request that was granted.
He had argued that since the apex court was already seized of the facts of the case, the lower court, in-line with the principle of judicial hierarchy, ought to stay the proceeding before it.
Consequently, Justice Bello adjourned the matter till December 3 to await the outcome of the appeal before the Supreme Court.
Specifically, the former governor is answering to charges bothering on money laundering, theft and illegal diversion of public fund to the tune of about N5 billion.
He is facing trial alongside two others, Udeh Udeogu and his private company, SLOK Nigeria Limited.
EFCC alleged that the 1st accused person, Kalu, connived with the 2nd accused, Udeogu, and diverted funds from the Abia state treasury into his private company, Slok Nigeria Limited, adding that the alleged illicit transaction was facilitated through six separate bank accounts.
Though the accused persons were arraigned since 2007, however, full-blown trial is yet to commence on the matter following preliminary objection that was raised against the suit by the ex-governor.
He had insisted that the totality of the proof of evidence that was adduced before the court by the EFCC failed to disclose a prima-facie case capable of warranting his continued trial, contending that he was charged to court under a non-existing law.
The ex-governor equally maintained that only the High Court in Umuahia in Abia State has the jurisdiction to entertain the suit considering that the alleged offence occurred outside Abuja.
While contending that there was nothing like “Money Laundry Act” as was written on the charge-sheet, he had pleaded the court to go ahead and quash the charge, a request that was refused by trial Justice Bello.
Meanwhile, ex-Governor Kalu, yesterday, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to stand up to his responsibilities by stopping the regular massacre of innocent Nigerians in the northern part of the country.
Speaking to newsmen at the court premises yesterday, Kalu, said it was unfortunate that people are being slaughtered like animals even when the country is not at war.
He said: “People are being killed every day in the north. These are Nigerians; they are not from Chad or Niger or Ghana. The primary duty of every government is to protect its citizens, if that is being done, that I don’t know.”
Stressing that President Jonathan has the powers to crush the Boko Haram insurgency, Kalu, said: “This government should stand-up to its responsibilities by putting in more effort because I have not seen their commendable effort in terms of curbing the menace of insecurity in this country.
“When we were there, all these mayhem came up, president Obasanjo and myself, came up with so many strategies to stop them. I believe that president Jonathan should stand up and deal with this issue, he is our President and he has all the powers to deal with these issues.
“It should not continue because these are human beings, they are not animals. When you see another person’s brother or sister being carried it looks like an animal, unless it is your own then it pains you, I mean a lot of people have died and we are not in war.
onathan should evolve strategies that will ensure that justice is given to the people because the main duty of government is to protect lives and properties of the people.
“A president can never be helpless, he has all the authorities to deal with the issues and that is why he is the President. Am sure he must have been wrongly quoted as saying he was helpless.
No president can say such thing. He has executive powers to deal with issues that threaten peace and stability in the country and this issue of Boko Haram and pervading sense of insecurity in this country needs to be decisively dealt with,” he added.
SOURCE: Vanguard Nigeria