Friday, July 27, 2007

Kalu sues, makes bail

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Kalu sues, makes bail

Former Abia State Governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, has described the freezing of his assets by a Federal High Court in Abuja, as "unconstitutional, reprehensible and against the rule of law."

The assets including business concerns that span aviation, publishing, manufacturing and marine services have been ordered frozen by the court at the instance of the EFCC which is prosecuting the former governor for alleged abuse of office and corruption.

The court order granted temporary forfeiture of Kalu’s multi-billion naira assets and business concerns of which The Sun Publishing Limited is one.

But, the ex-governor, in a statement signed by his media adviser, Iyke Ekeoma, argued that the action was illegal and unfair since the courts were yet to find him guilty of having acquired the said assets illegally. He is consequently heading for the court to challenge the court order, he said in the statement.

... but EFCC says Kalu lied

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said that the claim by former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, that he is not a director in companies belonging to the Slok Group, is a lie.

The anti-graft commission’s stand was contained in the documents attached to the 107 charges filed against the former governor at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The commission will rely on the documents to prove the charges against Kalu.

Kalu’s spokesman, Mr. Iyke Ekeoma, and the management of The Sun Publishing Limited, said the EFCC was pursuing a political agenda, by freezing the assets of the former governor.

The commission submitted that as at October 20, 2004, Kalu, though a serving governor, was still a director in Slok Nigeria Limited, Neya Nigeria Limited, Slok Shipping Limited, Slok Pharmaceutical Limited, Slok Properties Limited, Mak Travels Agency Limited and Astel Offshore Limited.

When confronted with the allegation that contrary to law, he remained a director of the companies while in office as governor, Kalu said, “In 1999 when I became a governor, I resigned from the company in a letter which I will forward to EFCC and which I have sent to the Code of Conduct Bureau. I wrote to Slok Nigeria Limited asking them to remove my name as a director.

“I did not check or confirm from Slok management whether they have removed my name or not.”

The former governor, who denied any wrong doing, said that he started trading in vegetable oil in 1983 but later went into manufacturing of vegetable oil in Borno State and later Imo State.

He said in his statement made under caution, “I started this business with the help of my parents with N5,000.”

He made the first statement to EFCC’s officials on July 11, 2007, and another statement on July 12, 2007.

Kalu added that some of the funds declared missing by EFCC were within his powers as the Chief Executive adding, “It was not to my knowledge that these funds were missing.”

He, however, admitted that a company, Firmbase Nig Ltd, which he said belonged to his brother, Johnson Uzor, supplied cars to Abia State Government.

Meanwhile, Kalu has said that his successor, Governor Theodore Orji, who served as his Chief of Staff, would be in a better position to explain the disbursement of the state funds.

In a statement he made to the commission on the July 11 and 12, 2007, Kalu said he was in total dark on how Orji disbursed the monies, though he confessed that he gave approvals for the drawing of the funds.

Kalu said that throughout his tenure, he did not meddle in the awards of contracts.

Meanwhile the embattled ex-governor of Abia State has been granted bail by the Federal High court in Abuja with conditions similiar to that of ex-governor Dariye of Plateau State. Kalu was granted bail in the sum of N100 Million with a bond deposit in a bank and two sureties in the like sum. The sureties must have evidence of their tax payment certificates from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for three consecutive years as and when due.
Besides, the former Abia State governor is to depose to a sworn affidavit stating the number of all the countries he has citizenship in and to deposit all his passports with the court. He is also to provide two traditional rulers and to deposit three recent passport photographs with the court.
In addition, Kalu was directed to report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a weekly basis and he is not to travel out of jurisdiction without the permission of the court. Justice Binta Murtala Nyako had while ruling on his bail application said the offences are bailable and that there was the possibility of his standing trial.

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