Court upholds competence of EFCC’s witness on Kalu’s trial

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A Federal High Court on Monday in Lagos upheld the competence of a witness, Christiana Ohiri, in the ongoing trial of a former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor kalu, charged with money laundering.

On Oct. 31, 2016, the EFCC preferred a 34-count charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against Kalu and a former Commissioner for Finance during Kalu’s administration, Ude Udeogo.

Also charged is a company, Slok Nig. Ltd.

The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges.



At the hearing last month, the defence team had raised objection to the competence of Ohiri, a manager of a branch of the UBA at Umuahia.

Ohiri is described as second prosecution witness.

Ruling on the objection, Justice Mohammed Idris held that the witness was competent to testify in the trial.

Idris held that the witness could give evidence in the case, since the provisions of the Evidence Act had been complied with by the EFCC.



The court declared that the signatory to the proof of evidence was not in doubt, adding that there was substantial compliance with the provision of the rules.
The judge held that “the proof of evidence before this honourable court is competent”.

In continuation of her evidence before the court, the witness said that no payment was made to the former governor from the government house account.

Under cross-examination by Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Gordy Uche (SAN), over a document containing information about 36 bank drafts, the witness said that no draft was either paid by Kalu or issued in his name.

Responding to a question from the silk, the witness said: “the first defendant (Kalu) did not personally come to me to purchase any draft and his name was not included on any of the drafts.



“His name or photograph also does not feature in the mandate cards of the signatories to the Government House Account.’’

The witness had earlier informed court that between September and October, 2006, the UBA head office had contacted her branch, requesting for some documents about some transactions that were done earlier in the year.

She said that some of the transactions were listed while others were retrieved from the bank’s archives and sent to Lagos.

Ohiri said that she did not know what the head office wanted to do with the documents.

She said that by 2007, she was invited by the EFCC, which asked her some questions about the documents her bank sent to the commission.

“I was invited to the EFCC four times in 2007 and I made three statements at the commission’s office,” she stated.

When Uche suggested to the witness that her statements were contradictory and inconsistent, she replied, “I disagree’’.

Further proceedings has been adjourned until April 11.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offences between August, 2001 and October, 2005.

Kalu was alleged to have used his company to retain N200 million in an account in First Inland Bank, now FCMB.

The money is alleged to be part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia State Government.

In one of the counts, Kalu’s company, Slok Nig. Ltd. and one Emeka Abone, said to be at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused.

They were alleged to have used Manny Bank (now Fidelity Bank Plc), Spring Bank Plc, the defunct Standard Trust Bank and Fin Land Bank, now FCMB.

In counts one to 10, the accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts, whose funds were said to belong to the Abia government.

Cumulatively, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.

The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16 and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.

It is also said to have contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by the amendment Act No.9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.

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