Promoting Good Governance.

Convicted Orji Kalu seeks bail over ailing health

FORMER Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu on Tuesday,  has filed an application seeking a post-conviction bail due to ailing health.

The Chief Whip and legislator representing Abia North Senatorial District asked a Federal High Court Lagos, to grant him bail from the Ikoyi Correctional Service pending the determination of an Appeal against his sentence.

Kalu’s trial started in 2007, where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged and prosecuted Kalu together with his former Commissioner for Finance, Jonnes Ude Udeogo, and a Company, Slok Nigeria Ltd, on an amended 39 counts charge of fraud.

However, the trail experienced a series of setbacks but eventually ended in October 2019 when parties adopted written submissions.

Kalu and his Company Slok Nigeria Ltd was found guilty of all 39 counts of the charge, while the second defendant Udeogo, was convicted on 34 counts of the charge.

Justice Mohammed Idris, the trial judge had convicted and sentenced Kalu to a concurrent term of 12 years imprisonment over N7.2billion fraud and Udeogo sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

The court had ordered that Slok Nigeria Ltd be wound up and its assets forfeited to Federal Government.

On the hearing on Tuesday, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) announced appearance for prosecution, while Messrs Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Awa Kalu (SAN) appeared for Kalu. Meanwhile, Messrs L.U Agu and David Idang held briefs on behalf of second and third defence counsel.

Fagbemi then informed the court of a bail application filed on behalf of the first convict, seeking to be released on bail pending Appeal.

Fagbemi drew the court’s 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.

Fagbemi cited section 6 of the Constitution, arguing that the court had the powers to entertain such applications. He relied on the ill health of the first convict, as well as the need for him to return to the floor of the National Assembly to carry out his service to the nation.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor, Jacobs argued in opposition to the bail application stating that 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 crystalised into guilt and conviction.

He said such an application for bail pending appeal is “sparingly” granted by the court for instance, in situations where the terms of imprisonment would have lapsed before the appeal is determined.

He argued that this was not the situation with the case of Kalu.

On the health condition of Kalu, Jacobs said there was no recent medical report to show his state of health as the medical report attached was over a year ago.

He added that the request by Kalu to be released on bail so as to seek ‘traditional medicine” was not a strong ground as visitors were allowed into the prison.

“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, the applicant is saying that he wants to be released on health grounds while in another breath he is saying that as a senator, he needs to be released on bail so as to carry out his official functions,” he said

Jacob also noted that the medical facilities at the correctional centre are capable of handling the medical condition of the convict. He, therefore, urged the court to refuse the bail application of Kalu.

Justice Mohammed Liman after listening to the arguments of both counsels adjourned the case until Dec. 23 for the ruling.

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