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Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
A former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, has rejected the transfer of his trial on money laundering charges from the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to the Lagos Division of the court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on September 27 arraigned the ex-governor and his co-accused persons before Justice Anwuri Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on amended 34 counts of money laundering.
The charges, originally instituted in 2007 but stalled by interlocutory appeals at the instance of the defendants, involved the diversion of a cumulative sum of N3.2bn from the Abia State Government’s treasury allegedly by the defendants while Kalu was the governor of the state.
Those charged alongside Kalu were Jones Udeogo, and the former governor’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
In an ex parte motion, Kalu sought the leave of court to apply for an order of mandamus to compel the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to return the case which was transferred to Lagos back to Abuja for continuation of hearing.
He also prayed that if the order was granted it should operate as “a stay of all actions, matters or issues ancillary to or relating to or pertaining to or connected with the case, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.”
His prayers were predicated on the provisions of Order 34(1)(a) and 3 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2009 and section 6(6)(a) of the 1999 Constitution.
The ex parte motion was filed along with the substantive suit which was numbered, FHC/ABJ/CS/845/2016.
The EFCC, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, are the respondents to the suit.
The processes were filed by Kalu’s lawyers led by Chief Awa Kalu (SAN).
In a 16-paragraph supporting affidavit and an affidavit of urgency deposed to by a lawyer, Mr. Ikechukwu Njoku, it was stated that Kalu was aware the case had been transferred to the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court following a request by the prosecution.
The affidavit added that the case against the former governor and others started in 2007 after he left office as the governor of Abia State, but that it suffered delay because parties went on appeal up to the Supreme Court.
The affidavit added that due to the case brought against him by the EFCC, he temporarily relocated to Abuja to face trial alongside others charged with him.
It added, “In 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that the case be returned to the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court for trial.
“Acting in strict compliance with the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta (3rd), assigned the case to Justice Anwuri Chikere for trial.
“It is the case of the applicant that all parties appeared before Justice Chikere on two occasions and the matter was adjourned due to pending appeal before the Supreme Court.
“On the third occasion, the court ordered that the defendant (Kalu) alongside others should take their plea which they did and were admitted on bail.
“The court alongside the prosecution and defence team agreed for three clear dates and the matter was adjourned to October 6, 7, and 8, 2016 for definite trial, thereafter, all the parties left the court to prepare for adjourned dates.”
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Source: Punch News