The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has re-arraigned a former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu, at a Federal High Court, Lagos, on an amended 39-count bordering on fraud.
The anti-graft agency is prosecuting Kalu together with his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Ltd., said to be owned by Kalu.
The EFCC had on Oct. 31, 2016, preferred 34 count charges, including a N3.2bn fraud charge.
Kalu and Udeogo had however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.
The EFCC closed the prosecution in May 2018, after calling a total of 18 witnesses and tendering a plethora of evidences before the court.
When the case came up on July 16, the EFCC Prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), informed court of a “second further amended charge”, urging the court to order the accused to take their pleas.
But Kalu’s defence team, comprising Awa Kalu (SAN), Chief Solo Akuma (SAN) and K. C. Nwofo (SAN), had all opposed the amended charge on grounds that it was not done in accordance with the provisions of the law.
They urged the court to refuse the amended charge.
In a short ruling on Tuesday, Justice Mohammed Idris (who has now been elevated to the court of appeal), while interpreting the provisions of Sections 216 and 217 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, held that the prosecution could amend the charge.
According to the court, an alteration of a charge can be allowed at any time, while the court accordingly, calls upon the accused to plead to the new charge and proceed with trial.
The court held that it cannot shut out the prosecution from filing a second amended charge as the defence had not showed that the amendment would be prejudicial to it.
After the court’s ruling, the accused were then re-arraigned on the new charges, and they again, each pleaded not guilty, while the court allowed them to continue with the earlier bails granted.
The defence team then informed the court of their various “no case submissions” filed on behalf of the accused, adding that they had served same on the prosecution, which in turn, filed a written address in reply.
The defence argued that the prosecution’s address was over 100 pages and so, they would require time to study same and make a response.
Idris then adjourned the case until July 25 to hear addresses on the “no case’’ submissions.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offence between August, 2001 and September, 2006.
Kalu was alleged to have used his company, Slok Nigeria Ltd., to retain N200 million in an account in First Inland Bank, now First City Monument Bank.
The sum is alleged to have formed part of funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government,