Court Dismisses Applications For Stay Of Proceedings In Ex-Abia Gov, Kalu’s N3.2bn Fraud Case
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, September 20, 2018, dismissed an application filed by a former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and others, seeking a stay of proceedings in a N3.2bn fraud case preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Chimes Commission.
Kalu alongside his former Commissioner for Finance and Account, Jones Udeogu, and a company, Slok Nigeria Limited, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an amended 39-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N3.2bn.
The judge had, on July 31, 2018, adjourned to September 10, 2018 for the defendants to open their defence.
However, at the last sitting on September 10, 2018, counsel to the former governor, Goddy Uche, SAN, had informed the court that Kalu could not get a flight on August 2, 2018 to travel abroad for his scheduled appointment to undergo a surgery, after being granted leave by the court. Uche had also told the court that the surgeon, who was billed to attend to Kalu, was on summer vacation, thereby making him (Kalu) to reschedule his appointment for September 10, 2018.
“We would like to plead with your Lordship for a short adjournment to enable the first defendant to undergo his scheduled surgery, recover and then stand his trial,” he had said.
However, in his response, counsel to the prosecution, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had told the court that Kalu’s absence in court on that day meant that he had jumped the bail granted him by the court.
The prosecution counsel had also said that there was no evidence that Kalu was treated in August, after he was granted leave by the court to travel abroad for the said surgery.
Jacobs had, therefore, urged the court to revoke the bail earlier granted to Kalu, adding that Kalu’s intention was for him not to open his defence that day.
In his short ruling, Justice Idris had refused the application for further adjournment.
The Judge had also ordered the defence to explain why the first defendant was not in court at the last sitting. The Judge had further ordered the defendants to open their defence on September 20.
At today’s sitting, counsel to Kalu, indicated the readiness of his client to open his
defence on Friday, September 21, 2018.
However, counsel to the second defendant, Chief Solo Akuma , SAN, as well as counsel to the third defendant, K. C. Nwofor, SAN, urged the court to stay further proceedings in the matter pending the hearing and determination of the separate motions they filed at the Lagos and Abuja Divisions of the Court of Appeal.
In his submissions, Akuma drew the court’s attention to a motion he filed at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal challenging the transfer of the case to the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court. He added that he had also lodged an appeal against the dismissal of his client’s no-case submission at the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.
He, therefore, argued that “going ahead with its hearing would pre-judge the application at the Appellate Court.”
Also, Nwofor sought a stay of further proceedings in the matter pending the hearing and final determination of the appeal lodged by his client against the dismissal of his no-case submission.
However, Jacobs SAN, opposed the aplication based on the provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA. “The points raised by the two defence lawyers were no longer live issues, as they have been overtaken by the advent of ACJA. ” Section 306 of ACJA frowns on any application for stay of proceedings in criminal matters.
“We urge the court to refuse the application for stay of proceedings, as it is no longer permissible under the law.
“I strongly objected the application for stay of proceedings. Presently, there is no order standing in my Lord to stay of proceedings.
“I, therefore, urged my Lord to refuse the application”.
In his ruling, Justice Idris declined to stay further proceedings in the matter, saying
“The application is in conflict with the law. Trial is being conducted under the ACJA , which requires day-to-day proceedings.
“Learned counsels can proceed to the Appellate Court for the hearing
of the application for stay and I will be bound by whatever is the
Consequently, Justice Idris adjourned the case to September 21, 2018 for commencement of trial.
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