TRIAL OF ORJI UZOR KALU ADJOURNED TO MARCH 2017

Read previous post on case here.

Trial in the charge pending against former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited for alleged money laundering offences could not proceed today as the prosecution’s witness was said to be indisposed. After re-arraignment before Hon. Justice Idris sitting at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on the 31st of October 2016, the charge was adjourned to the 12th and 13th of December 2016 for trial. Yesterday was however declared as a public holiday in Nigeria. When the charge was called today, Mr. Kalu and his co-accused, Mr. Jones Udeogu were present however no one from the prosecution’s team was in court. Awa Kalu SAN who appeared for Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu and Solomon Akuma SAN who appeared for Mr. Udeogu and the company applied that the charge be dismissed owing to the absence of the prosecution relying on the provisions of Section 351 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. While Justice Idris found the absence of the prosecution from the proceedings without any reasonable excuse ‘unacceptable’ and ‘highly detestable’, he held that he would give the prosecution one more opportunity by adjourning the trial. Just as the Judge finished delivering his ruling, Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi appeared and announced representation for the prosecution. Apologizing profusely, he explained that he had been unable to contact the learned senior advocates for the defendants to inform them that he was held up in traffic. He further apologized that he would be unable to proceed with trial, as the witness whom he had slated for today’s proceedings was indisposed.

Things got a bit heated between the prosecution and defence when Mr. Awa Kalu SAN applied to the court to direct the prosecution to give the defence an idea of which of the 19 witnesses listed they would be calling before each day’s proceedings. He stated that this would enable the defence prepare adequately for the trial. He also applied that the court fix ten clear dates for the trial as Mr. Kalu has lost tremendously as a business man as a result of the charge which has been pending for nine years. Mr. Akuma SAN also adopted the applications stating that prior knowledge of the witnesses to be fielded for each day would prevent unnecessary adjournments for the purposes of cross-examination. He also added that he had written to the prosecution asking for a copy of the investigation report and the prosecution had failed to produce it. He urged the court to direct the prosecution to make the investigation report available.

Mr. Adebisi in his response stated that the application asking the court to direct the prosecution to tell the defendants prior to each day’s proceedings the witness they intend to call is strange and has no foundation in law, a statement that offended Mr. Awa Kalu SAN. He argued that the obligation placed on the prosecution was to make all materials it intends to rely upon available to the defendants, which has been done. He added that there was no obligation on the prosecution to give the defendants prior heads-up as to which witness would be called for a particular day’s proceedings. He also added that such an order could open the door for witness interference as there is need to protect the witnesses. On the provision of the investigation report, Mr. Adebisi maintained that everything the prosecution intends to use to prosecute the charge has been made available to the defendants and that there is no obligation in law upon them to provide the investigation report unless it formed part of the materials they would be relying upon.

On moving expeditiously with the trial, he was amenable with the court giving several dates adding that the delay in the charge had not been caused by the prosecution but the defence who filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the charge and appealed the decision of the court up to the Supreme Court with an order of stay of proceedings in force.

Justice Idris stated that he would not make an order directing the prosecution to make available to the defendants the particular witnesses to be called for each day’s proceedings as he was of the opinion that it was information that should be exchanged between the lawyers informally. He therefore encouraged that it should be done to ensure a smooth trial. Trial in the charge has been adjourned to commence on the 6th of March 2017.

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