The former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, has opened his defence in a case of alleged N7.6 billion fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Kalu, the Senate Chief Whip, gave his testimony on Monday when he appeared at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The former governor whose testimony lasted for about seven minutes was only able to state his name, address, occupation and the number of counts for which he was standing trial before the proceedings were truncated by his counsel, Awa Kalu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The counsel asked the court to grant him an adjournment to enable him get access to the case file so as to adequately prepare for his defence.
Kalu, who had initially made a request for an adjournment prior to his client opening his defence, said after receiving the notice of Monday’s hearing, he had by a letter dated July 15 2019, informed the court that he would not be available in court because of an election petition he was handling.
The senior lawyer also told the court that he, however, decided to come to the court in person on Monday to explain his predicament.
He said, “My lord, I have to run to Lagos without the case file because my secretary is bereaved and not in Abuja, and for that reason, I would not be able to proceed.”
Mr Kalu also stated that the second and third defendants were not represented in court and since the trial was a joint one, it would be improper to proceed in their absence.
He, therefore, urged the court for an adjournment that would be convenient for all the parties to continue with the matter.
The EFCC is prosecuting Senator Kalu along with the then Commissioner for Finance, Udeh Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, for the alleged fraud on an amended 39-count.
They have, however, all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
In response to the defence counsel’s initial request for an adjournment, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), asked the court to direct the first defendant, Orji Kalu to open his defence since he was in court.
On the prompting of the court, Senator Kalu opened his defence and testified for about seven minutes.
In his defence, the Senator while being led in evidence by his counsel, told the court that he earned a living as a manufacturer of homemade goods until a few weeks ago when he became a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
When further probed by his counsel on what he manufactures, the defendant said he manufactured tomato paste and other household items.
After this testimony, the counsel made a second request for an adjournment to enable him adequately prepare.
Thereafter, Justice Mohammed Idris gave a short ruling on whether the trial should continue in the absence of the second and third defendants.
He said, “Since counsel to second and third defendants were served with the notice of hearing for the day and they were absent and did not deem it fit to send to court, any of the counsel that has been appearing with them in the matter, the proceedings of the day will go on…”
Justice Idris then adjourned the case until August 26 for the continuation of trial.