*Jail bound Senator Orji Kalu
By Andrew Onyejuruuwa
The drama regarding the embattled two-term former governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu over his imminent jail term has continued to make headlines as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday opposed a post-conviction bail application filed by the convicted former Governor of Abia State, before Justice Muhammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos State.
The EFCC had charged and prosecuted Kalu together with his former Commissioner for Finance, Jonnes Ude Udeogo and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39 counts charge of fraud. Delivering the judgment, Justice Mohammed Idris found Kalu and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, guilty on all the 39-count charge preferred against them while the second defendant Udeogo, was convicted on 34 counts of the charge.
Kalu was therefore sentenced to a term of 12 years imprisonment for the offence, while Udeogo was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment. The court also ordered that Slok Nigeria Limited be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. However, Kalu, in his application yesterday through his lawyer, Mr Lateef Fagbemi SAN, said he had health challenges that could not be managed by the medical facilities in the Correctional Centre in Lagos.
Kalu’s lawyer said his application was premised on 23 grounds and supported by an affidavit of 38 paragraphs, adding that after receiving the counter affidavit of prosecution, he had filed a 34-paragraph further affidavit with one exhibit attached. He also drew the courts attention to a notice of appeal against the conviction of Kalu and relied on the provisions of sections 241 of the Constitution in urging the court to grant the applicant bail pending appeal. “If there is a right of appeal, then there is a corresponding right of bail pending appeal,” he said.
Elaborating his position while citing the case of Okitipupa as well as Section 6 of the Constitution, Fagbemi further argued that being a court of record, it has the powers to entertain such applications since post-judgment jurisdiction are anchored on Section 6 of the constitution. Kalu, in the 34-paragraph further affidavit with one exhibit attached, also argued that the offences for which he was convicted and jailed were bailable. He, therefore, prayed the court to free him, while he challenges his conviction at the Court of Appeal.
While arguing his counter affidavit in opposition to the bail application, Jacobs, said: “Although bail is generally a right of an accused as guaranteed by the constitution, it is not a right available to a convict because the presumption of innocence has crystallised into guilt and conviction.” Jacobs stated that such application for bail pending appeal is “sparingly” granted by the court for instance, in situations where the terms of imprisonment would have elapsed before the appeal is determined.
He said this was not the situation with the case of Kalu. “He says he needs his traditional herbalist to treat him, but he has not said that his herbalist came to the prison and was not allowed to see him. “In one breath, applicant is saying that he wants to be released on health grounds while in another breath he is saying that as senator, he needs to be released on bail so as to carry out his official functions,” he said
Citing the case of FRN vs Joshua Dariye, prosecution argued that the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence is robust enough to handle appeal and dispense with same within reasonable time. Besides, he argued that the medical facilities at the correctional centre is capable of handling the medical condition of the convict. He, therefore, urged the court to refuse the bail application of Kalu. Justice Liman adjourned the case till December 23, 2019 for ruling on Kalu’s bail application.