The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu and two others before a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja.
Kalu, his ex-aide, Jones Udeogo and company, Slok Nigeria Limited, were arraigned on a 34-count charge.
Before the arraignment, Kalu and others objected to their re-arraignment, urging the court to await the pending appeal by Slok before the Supreme Court.
The trial Judge, Justice Anwuri Chikere, rejected the defendants’ objection and ordered that the charges be read to them.
In the amended charge, they were accused of diverting about N3.2 billion from the Abia State Government’s treasury when he held office as the governor.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court also granted them bail on the terms attached to the bail granted them on April 30, 2008 when they were earlier arraigned before Justice Adamu Bello (now retired).
The court had consequently adjourned till December 6, for the commencement of trial.
Kalu and others were initially arraigned in 2007 before Justice Bello, then of the Federal High Court, Abuja. They also pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Counsel to the ex-governor, Awa Kalu, had urged the court to allow them remain on the bail earlier granted them.
Prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs did not object to the position canvassed by the defence , but said he was interested in the trial.
Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday conceded to the appeal filed by Joe Agi, seeking to disqualify Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, over false declaration of age.
In the appeal, Agi told the apex court that Ayade lied about his age in the nomination form submitted to the PDP, contrary to the party’s guideline.
He had in a pre-election matter taken Ayade, the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before a Federal High Court on the ground that he paraded different and conflicting age declarations.
He held that by the constitution of the party, Ayade was not qualified to fly the party’s flag as the governorship candidate and as such, he who came second in the primaries should be declared as the authentic candidate.
In a judgment delivered on July 31, 2015, Justice Abdul Kafarati had dismissed Agi’s case on the ground that the matter was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
But Agi had argued that the decision of the lower courts upholding the preliminary objections of the first (PDP) and third (Ayade) respondents, only dealt with one ground of the appellant’s case, without considering the ground of the case bordering on the presentation of conflicting age declarations.
He held that the discrepancies in age declaration were contrary to Articles 14 (b) and 15 (2) of the Electoral Guidelines for the Primary Elections 2014 of the PDP and the Electoral Act.
At the hearing of the appeal yesterday, counsel to the PDP, N.P Ibegbulam of the Ferdinand Orbih’s chambers, urged the five-man panel of the justices to find merit in the appeal.
According to him, the PDP guideline did not form part of the appellant case at the trial courts.
The court has reserved judgment till December 9.