The trial of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, charged with N3.2 billion fraud on Wednesday, suffered another setback at a Federal High Court, Lagos, as the judge was unavailable.
Mr. Kalu was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, on 34 counts bordering on fraud.
Also charged is Mr. Kalu’s company, Slok Nigerai Ltd; the accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the judge, Mohammed Idris, was absent at Wednesday’s scheduled proceedings as he was said to be attending a conference outside the state.
Consequently, the court fixed continuation of trial for November 28, 29, 30 and December 1.
On October 3, the absence of counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, had stalled trial as he wrote to the court informing it of his absence and asked for a short adjournment which was scheduled for Wednesday, November 8.
The EFCC had on October 31, 2016, slammed fraud charges on Messrs. Kalu and Udeogo.
The accused had allegedly committed the offences between August 2001 and October 2005 by utilising his company to retain in the account of a First Inland Bank, (now FCMB), the sum of N200 million.
The prosecution said the money formed part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of the Abia State Government.
Slok Nigeria Ltd and Emeka Abone, still at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account N200 million on behalf of the first accused.
The accused were also alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts which funds were said to belong to the Abia Government.
Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the Abia Government’s treasury during Mr. Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The alleged offences contravened Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, Laws of the Federation 2005 as well as the Money Laundering Act of 1995 (as amended by the amendment Act No. 9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.