A Federal High Court in Lagos has given former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, a seven-day ultimatum to return to Nigeria from Germany, where he allegedly underwent surgery, or have his bail revoked.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris gave the order after he heard from counsel to Kalu, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), that he was away in Germany for medical treatment.
Prof. Kalu had told the court that Kalu was advised by his doctors to remain in Germany to recuperate from the surgery.
He hinted that the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), was aware of the development and urged Justice Idris to adjourn the case until when Kalu would be able to attend court.
The request was opposed by Jacobs, who expressed surprise at Kalu’s absence in court. He denied knowledge of whether or not the ex-governor obtained the court’s permission to travel out of the country.
He maintained that having submitted his passport to the court as part of his bail conditions, Kalu must always apply to the court for the passport whenever he wished to travel abroad.
Jacobs insisted that Kalu’s absence from court was an attempt to frustrate the case and that the court, must interpret the development to mean that he had jumped bail.
He continued: “I am not aware when the 1st defendant wanted to travel. We only got to know that he travelled abroad for medical treatment through his media aide, one Kunle Oyewunmi.
“Things must be done in accordance with the law. In my view, what happened is that the 1st defendant has jumped bail. This is an attempt to further frustrate this trial because no application was made to the court to travel.
“I urge Your Lordship to treat the absence of the 1st defendant as that he has jumped bail,”Jacobs stated.
But the defence counsel urged Justice Idris to discountenance Jacobs’ argument, submitting that at the time Kalu travelled out of the country, the court had adjourned the case sine die (indefinitely).
In his ruling, Justice Idris acknowledged the fact the matter was adjourned sine die on September 27, 2018, but noted that Kalu was on November 2 served with a hearing notice that the case had been scheduled for yesterday.
The judge also acknowledged that the court received a mail confirming Kalu’s treatment arrangement, but said the defence counsel failed to attach any medical report to guide the court on his post-surgery treatment.
Justice Idris said in the circumstance, he would in the interest of justice, adjourn the case for the last time, stressing that Kalu must return from Germany within seven days and appear before the court.
The matter was adjourned till November 12, 2018 for continuation of trial.
The EFCC is prosecuting Kalu, his then commissioner for Finance, Udeh Jones Udeogu, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited on an amended 39-count charge of fraud.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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