Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Kalu in the middle... and EFCC all about!
I can't believe my ears!
The United States government has indicated plan to send several high profile judicial observers to the next court appearance of former Abia State governor and presidential candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.
Also, the United Kingdom-based International Bar Association says it will send what officials called an assessment team to Nigeria on what is turning out to be an international fire-storm over Kalu's travails.
This is even as some influential lawmakers in the United States Congress are in touch with the White House to "hold Nigerian authorities accountable if Kalu comes to any harm."
The United States Justice Department said its team would be led by a special prosecutor from the office of Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales and would report its findings to President George Bush, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The team’s job would be to monitor the court proceedings, with the view to ensuring that it meets internationally accepted standards as well as to ensure that all defendants are accorded their legal rights.
Sources said the action underscores the concern of the United States administration for what officials described as the "seeming political nature of the trials."
A top aide to Mr. Gonzales said a legal review of the charges presented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Dr. Kalu showed "inconsistencies based on tenuous conclusions not based on facts," adding: "How can a government investigative agency bring a 107-charge against a known critic of the administration, except it is a fishing expedition," the official said.
United States State Department officials also condemned the trial and wondered why the former Abia State governor would be remanded in prison when he is not a flight risk.
"The administration is concerned and hopes the rights of all those currently on trial, especially Governor Kalu will be respected," officials said.
They said that US administration officials had advised Dr. Kalu to put off his trip to Nigeria because of information of his arrest.
"He rebuffed our pleas and decided to return to prove his innocence. That is not the action of a man who has anything to hide," officials said.
It was also learnt that British authorities also failed to convince Kalu to reschedule his return. Sources said officials in the office of Under Secretary for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazier, were disappointed that the defendants were not granted bail when their pleas were taken. "This might be a delay tactic by the EFCC. If they are ready with the case, the defendants should be granted bail not remanded under the reason that their applications need to be studied by the same agency that charged them to court," officials stated.
It was gathered that the U.S. delegation could be enlarged to include human rights and pro-democracy groups, which believe Dr. Kalu's current troubles have roots in his opposition to some of the policies of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
... and now this disclaimer
The United States has denied that it is averse to the trial of the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In his valedictory press briefing on Wednesday, the outgoing US Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, said it was not the business of the US Government to dictate to its allies how to run their judicial systems.
He was reacting to media reports in the wake of the arrest of Kalu, that the US opposed the arrest and trial of the ex-governor.
Campbell said, “This is a Nigerian judicial process, it is altogether improper for the United States to comment on such a process and as far as I know, contrary to press reports, we have not done so.
“The United States Government has made no statement absolutely ever about an entire judicial process that is now underway.”
He also noted that although the US regretted the poor conduct of the April general elections, it welcomed the call for reforms of the electoral system.
He said, “The United States will continue to walk beside Nigeria on its pilgrimage to democracy. We share with Nigerians their disappointment over the conduct of the April 2007 elections.
I would most certainly hope so, Mr Ambassador, but pray may I ask; what has the April elections got to do with corruption in office? And why the singular interest in Uzor's case? I still smell loads of fish here!
Won't someone please tell, what's going on here?