N7.7bn fraud: Court gives Orji Kalu 7-day ultimatum to return to Nigeria



A federal high court in Lagos has ordered Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia state, to return to Nigeria in seven days to face trial for the N7.7 billion fraud he allegedly committed as governor.

Kalu, who is standing trial, was absent in court on Monday.

On Friday, Kunle Oyewunmi, his spokesman, had said the former governor flew to Germany last Monday for a major surgery.

Oyewunmi said since the ex-governor was treating “an undisclosed and life-threatening ailment”, he would stay in Germany for four months to recuperate.

In his ruling on Monday, Mohammed Idris, judge of the court, said Kalu’s lawyer should have obtained a medical report on his health condition which could have guided the proceedings of the court.

He said though the matter was adjourned indefinitely on September 27, the prosecution served Kalu a notice of the hearing on November 2. But the trial of the former governor was stalled on Monday due to his absence in court.

Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said he was not aware when Kalu got permission from the court to travel, hence it should be admitted that he jumped bail in order to frustrate the corruption trial.

Awa Kalu, lawyer of the former governor, said Kalu has been advised to stay abroad to recuperate from the major surgery he had.

Ruling on the case, Idris said he would adjourn the case for the last time in the interest of justice.

“I have always stated that every citizen of this country is entitled to and has the right to seek medical treatment abroad,” the judge held.

“This right is guaranteed by the constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the International Covenant of 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 trial was adjourned till November 12.



TheCable