The trial of former governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu, who was charged with N3.2 billion fraud yesterday, suffered another setback at a Federal High Court, Lagos, as the judge was unavailable.
The former governor was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, on a 34-count fraud charge.
Also charged is Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Ltd; the accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Judge, Mohammed Idris, was absent at yesterday’s scheduled proceedings as he was said to be attending a conference outside the state, and, therefore, the court fixed continuation of trial for November 28, 29, 30 and December 1.
The absence of counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, on October 3, had stalled trial as he wrote to the court informing it of his absence and asked for a short adjournment which was scheduled for yesterday.
The EFCC had, on October 31, 2016, slammed fraud charges on Messrs. Kalu and Udeogo. The accused had allegedly committed the offences between August 2001 and October 2005 by utilising his company to retain in the account of a First Inland Bank, (now FCMB), the sum of N200 million.
The prosecution said the money formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia state government.
The accused were also alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which funds were said to belong to the Abia state government.
Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia state government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The alleged offences contravened Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, Laws of the Federation 2005, as well as the Money Laundering Act of 1995 (as amended by the Amendment Act No. 9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990. (NAN)