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Four days after meeting Buhari, EFCC calls more witnesses in Kalu’s trial

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday, called its sixth witness in ongoing trial of former Abia governor, Orji Kalu, at a Federal High Court in Lagos.

On January 18, top ruling APC leaders, including Mr Kalu, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa.

EFCC had on October 31, 2016, preferred 34 count charges bordering on N3.2 billion alleged fraud against Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo.

Also charged is a company, Slok Nig. Ltd.

The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.

When trial resumed on Monday, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), called the witness, Braimoh Yakubu, an Internal Control Officer with Guaranty Trust Bank.

Led in evidence, Mr Yakubu told the court that he had been a Regional Coordinator of the bank since 2005.

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He said that his schedule of duty included investigation of fraud and irregularities, listening to customers’ complaints as well as acting as a liaison officer.

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Giving his narration on events in 2007, the witness told the court that the EFCC wrote a letter to his bank, requesting for account opening documents of the third accused, Slok.

He said that the account opening documents of Slok were retrieved and forwarded to the commission.

Presented with the documents, the witness identified them as the same sent to the commission by the bank as ordered.

But counsel to Slok, C.C. Nwofor, raised objection to the admissibility of the document on grounds that it contained some other document not emanating from GT Bank.

According to him, some of the documents sought to be tendered emanated from other banks and so, the witness cannot testify on them since he is not its maker.

Other defence counsels also aligned themselves with Mr Nwofor’s objection.

However, in a bench ruling, Justice Mohammed Idris overruled the objection of the defence counsel and held that such objection only went to the weight to be attached to such document.

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Accordingly, the court admitted and marked the documents as exhibits.

Under cross-examination, counsel to Mr Kalu, Awa Kalu, sought confirmation from the witness that he had been working at GT Bank since 2005 and the witness replied in the affirmative.

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To further question by the defence counsel, Mr Yakubu said that he obtained his masters degree between 2008 and 2010.

Justice Idris adjourned until Jan. 23 for continuation of trial.

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

Mr Kalu was alleged to have utilised his company to retain in the account of a First Inland Bank, now First City Monument Bank, the sum of N200 million.

The sum is alleged to have formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of Abia Government.

In one of the counts, the third accused (Slok Nig. Ltd) and one Emeka Abone, who is 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.

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

Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia Government’s treasury during Mr Kalu’s tenure as governor between 1999 and 2007.

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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