Alleged N7.65bn Fraud: Court Revokes Orji Kalu’s Bail

Orji Uzor Kalu

Davidson Iriekpen

Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos has revoked the bail granted former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, in 2007 for flouting his order.

Kalu is standing trial after he was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for an alleged fraud of N7.65billion.

The judge had last week given Kalu a seven-day ultimatum to return from Germany to face his trial.

The ultimatum came when Kalu’s lawyer, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), told the court that his client was away in Germany for surgical operation.

He added that the ex-governor had been advised by his doctors to remain in Germany for some time to recuperate.

The defence counsel said counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was aware of the development, and urged Justice Idris to further adjourn the case.

But the EFCC prosecutor, Jacobs, said he was surprised at Kalu’s absence from court, adding that he did not know if or when the ex-governor obtained the court’s permission to travel out.

Jacobs noted that having submitted his passport to the court as part of his bail conditions, Kalu must always apply to the court for the passport whenever he wished to travel.

Describing the ex-governor’s absence from court as an attempt to frustrate the case, Jacobs urged Justice Idris to interpret Kalu’s absence to mean that he had jumped bail.

“I am not aware when the first defendant wanted to travel. We only got to know that he travelled abroad for medical treatment through his media aide, one Kunle Oyewunmi.

“Things must be done in accordance with the law. In my own view, what happened is that the first defendant has jumped bail. This is an attempt to further frustrate this trial because no application was made to the court to travel.

“I urge your lordship to treat the absence of the first defendant as that he has jumped bail,” Jacobs said.

Responding, however, the defence counsel urged Justice Idris to discountenance Jacob’s argument, saying as of when Kalu travelled out, the court had adjourned the case indefinitely.

Ruling on the lawyers’ submissions, Justice Idris noted that it was true that the matter was adjourned indefinitely on September 27, 2018, but Kalu was on November 2 served with a hearing notice that the case had been scheduled for last Monday.

The judge also noted that the court received a mail confirming Kalu’s treatment arrangement, but he said the defence counsel failed to attach any medical report to guide the court as to Kalu’s post-surgery treatment.

Justice Idris said in the circumstance, he would, in the interest of justice, adjourn the case for the last time, stressing that Kalu must return from Germany within seven days and appear before the court.

The judge ruled: “I have always stated that every citizen of this country is entitled to and has the right to seek medical treatment abroad. This right is guaranteed by the constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is an inalienable right.

“However, this right has exceptions. Therefore, in exercising this right, due regard must be had for the law and due process.

“Apart from the mail confirming the treatment arrangement of the first defendant, the defence counsel should have obtained a medical report on the condition of the first defendant post-surgery. This would have properly guided the court in the proceedings of today.

“However, in the light of the entirety of this case and in the interest of justice, I am prepared to grant to the first defendant a final adjournment in respect of this matter.

“In the light of the provisions of the ACJA, I shall not adjourn for more than seven days from today. It is, therefore, hereby directed that the first defendant shall return to the country within seven days from today’s date for the hearing of this matter.”

The matter was therefore adjourned to yesterday for continuation of trial.

However, when the case came up for hearing yesterday, there was no sign of the former governor in court.

This made the judge to order that he surrenders his travel documents to the EFCC upon his return to Nigeria.

The former governor was also ordered to surrender himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return, failure of which he would be arrested.

Justice Idris held: “Due to the circumstances, I am constrained to revoke the bail granted to the first defendant (Kalu).

“The first defendant is, however, permitted to continue with his medical treatment abroad without any harassment by law enforcement agencies.

“Upon the first defendant’s return to the country, he shall at the point of entry surrender his passport and other relevant documents to the EFCC.

“He shall also submit himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return, failing which he shall be arrested and detained by the EFCC.”