Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu was on Thursday jailed for 12 years after a 12-year trial for fraud and money laundering.
Kalu was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for N7.65 billion fraud committed during his tenure as Abia State governor between 1999 and 2007.
A Federal High Court in Lagos also convicted a Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure, Udeh Udeogu, and Kalu’s firm, Slok Nigeria Ltd, on each of the 39 counts brought against them by the EFCC.
Justice Mohammed Idris sentenced Kalu to 133 years imprisonment and Udeogu to 56 years imprisonment. He ordered that Slok be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
Kalu, who a senator on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was sentenced to five years each on counts 1 to 11, totalling 55 years; three years each on counts 23 to 33, totalling 30 years; and 12 years each on counts 34 to 38, totalling 48 years.
The sentences will run concurrently, meaning Kalu will only spend a maximum of 12 years in jail.
Justice Idris said Kalu, the Senator representing Abia North, committed a crime against humanity.
Five ex-governors have been jailed so far for corruption. They are: Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), James Ibori (Delta), Rev. Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Senator Joshua Dariye (Plateau) and Kalu.
Twenty three others are being prosecuted.
Kalu was arraigned alongside others on an amended 39-count charge for conspiring and diverting the N7.65bn from the coffers of Abia State Government.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them by the EFCC, thereby leading to their full trial.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), called 19 witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court.
Two defendants testified on behalf of themselves during the trial. But, Kalu merely offered a prepared statement. He exercised his right to refuse to testify or be cross-examined.
At the last sitting of the court on October 22, 2019, Jacobs urged the judge to jail the defendants as the prosecution had proved the allegations against them.
Jacobs said the second defendant ( Udeogu) had already admitted to the offence, both in his extrajudicial statement and under cross-examination.
“The admission is binding on all the defendants,” the prosecutor said.
He added that, contrary to Kalu’s statement that Abia State did not have as much as N7bn during his administration, information from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed total allocation to Abia State under Kalu was N137bn.
However, the defence urged the court to dismiss the charges, acquit and discharge their clients.
Convicting the defendants, Justice Idris held that the prosecution had established its case against the defendants.