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‘I Didn’t Loot N7.2 Billion As Abia Governor’ – Orji Kalu

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Orji Kalu, a former Abia state governor and the current chief whip of the senate, on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, told a Federal High Court in Lagos that he did not steal N7.2 billion from the state while he was at the helm between 1999 and 2007.

The former Governor, who was testifying in his on defense over allegations of fraud brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, also maintained that the Abia State under him had no such fund.

The EFCC is prosecuting Kalu, his commissioner for finance, Udeh Jones Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited on an amended 39 count charge.

They were alleged to have used the following banks to perpetrate the alleged fraud, Manny Bank, Spring Bank Plc,( now Heritage Bank), the defunct Standard Trust Bank, now United Bank for Africa Plc, UBA, and Fin Land Bank, now First City Monument Bank, FCMB.

The alleged offences according to the EFCC are contrary to sections 17(c) 16, 14(1)(b)17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2003, and sections 427 of the same Act.

The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge.

While being led in evidence by his lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), Kalu told Justice Mohammed Idris, who is now a Justice of the Court of Appeal but sitting on the case under the cover of a fiat issued to him by the President of the appellate court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, that there was no way he could stole what was non-existence.

He also testified that “Abia State doesn’t have such amount. Even the day I was leaving, we borrowed money to pay salaries. Abia State doesn’t have even a billion naira in any account at the time I was governor.”

To back up his denial of the allegations, the former governor also spoke about the difficulties he encountered in running the state with allocations from federal government.

The defendant further claimed, “The monthly allocation of Abia State when I took over in June 1999 was N168 million. It was averaging between N168 million and N172 million monthly. The first month that I came in, there was even no money to buy diesel. I spent my own money to run the state for six months.

“In the year 2000, monthly allocation was between N170 million and N189 million. In 2001, it came to about N302 million to about N380 million. I can recollect in 2002, it was almost the same and in 2003 when the revenue allocation was changed, we were having about N400 million.

“The highest money I got as governor came from 2004 when we have about N1 billion and from that time up till May 2007 before I left, what we had was N1.6 billion.

“Throughout my stay in office, I never owed salary and pension. When I took over as governor and before I left, we moved it up to N500 million. It was from this that we were able to do a lot of things”.

>Kalu had earlier in his evidence told the court that he has been a successful businessman before venturing into politics.

Speaking on his line of businesses before he began his political journey, he said: “I was running a group of companies under Slok Nigeria Ltd and I have a big furniture factory in Maiduguri. I was also trading in cows. The cows were coming from Chad to Umuahia. I also had a veritable oil factory in Aba supplying to people in Kano and Maiduguri.

“I was also into shipping activities with major oil companies. We also have a very big corn farm in the East and Bauchi.

“We were a major shareholder before another shareholder bought off First Bank. In 1994, the then Hallmark Bank had a problem and I later bought majority stake in the bank. We also had major interests in Banks in DRC, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the then Sudan before crisis set in”.

The former governor also disclosed that he also deals in buying and selling of property.

He further disclosed that he made all his statements to the EFCC under bad treatment from some police officers.

“When I learnt they were looking for me, I called Ibrahim Lamorde that I was in the United States and that I will show up upon my return to the country.

“But when I returned to Nigeria, they were waiting for me at the airport and whisked me away to their office. After I was beating up thoroughly by police officers, I asked them what was my offence and they told me I have been insulting President Obasanjo.

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Lamorde later came to apologize to me”.

Justice Idris adjourned the case to Wednesday, August 28, 2019, for further hearing.

Read more at Leadership

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