Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, September 27, 2018, adjourned the trial of former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, over his alleged involvement in a N7.6billion fraud.
Kalu is standing trial alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N7.6bn.
The matter had been adjourned to today for the defence to open its case. However, at the resumed hearing, Justice Idris informed the court that the fiat issued to him by the President of the Court of Appeal would expire tomorrow, September 28, 2018.
The Judge, who was elevated to the Appellate Court sometime in June 2018, was issued a fiat to conclude some of the criminal cases that are before him by the end of this month. The Judge also said that in line with the ongoing nation-wide strike, it might be impossible for the defence team counsel to conclude its defence.
He, however, sought the opinion of the counsels on the way forward. Counsel to the first defendant, Awa Kalu, SAN, urged the court to adjourn the matter on the grounds it might be impossible to conclude the trial in view of the underlying issues. “My Lord, we are ready to open our case. However, it may be an exercise in futility to start now only to stop tomorrow.
We have two witnesses before the court, who will need to defend before this matter is brought to conclusion and that may seem impossible because of the expiration of the fiat. It may, therefore, be prudent to determine the faith of the fiat before we continue.”
Counsels to the second and third defendants, Chief Solo Akuma, SAN, and K.C. Nwofo, SAN, aligned with the submissions of Kalu. The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, however, opposed the applications of the defence team.
He argued that the case had been previously adjourned to today for the defence to open its case.