THISDAY

Court Dismisses Kalu’s Request for Post-conviction Bail

- Davidson Iriekpen

Justice Muhammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday dismissed a post-conviction bail applicatio­n, filed by the convicted former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu.

The judge, after ruling against all four issues raised for determinat­ion by Kalu, said his applicatio­n lacked merit.

He ordered Kalu to remain in prison till his appeal at the Court of Appeal is determined, wondering why the former governor is in a hurry to file the applicatio­n when the appeal has not been heard at all.

Justice Mohammed Idris had on December 5 convicted and sentenced Kalu to a concurrent term of 12 years imprisonme­nt over N7.2 billion fraud after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged and prosecuted him alongside his former Commission­er for Finance, Mr. Jones Udeogo, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39-count charge of fraud.

In his judgment, Justice Idris had found Kalu and Slok Nigeria Limited guilty of all the 39 counts of the charge, while the second defendant, Udeogo, was convicted on 34 counts of the charge.

While Kalu was sentenced to a term of 12 years imprisonme­nt for the offence, Udeogo got 10 years imprisonme­nt.

The court ordered that Slok Nigeria Limited be wound up and its assets forfeited to the federal government.

Though the former governor and others had long filed their notices of appeal, last Tuesday, his lawyers, Messrs Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Awa Kalu (SAN), appeared in court with an applicatio­n seeking to release the convict from prison pending the determinat­ion of his appeal.

They listed ill-health, being a representa­tive of his senatorial district, the likelihood that appeal might be delayed and being of good conduct as grounds for his appeal for the post-conviction bail.

Fagbemi claimed Kalu had health challenges that could not be managed by the medical facilities in the Custodial Centre in Ikoyi, Lagos.

He also argued that the offences for which he was convicted and jailed were bailable.

Citing Sections 6 of the constituti­on, the counsel argued that the court has the powers to entertain such an applicatio­n since post-judgment jurisdicti­ons are anchored on the section.

He said the bail would enable Kalu to attend to his health as well return to the National Assembly to carry out service to the nation.

They prayed the court to free him, while he pursues his conviction by Justice Idris at the Court of Appeal.

However, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), opposed the applicatio­n for post-conviction bail, saying, “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 had crystallis­ed into guilt and conviction.

“An applicatio­n for bail pending appeal is sparingly granted.

“Such a bail can be granted in a situation, where the term of imprisonme­nt would have elapsed before the determinat­ion of the appeal.

"But that is not the situation in Kalu’s case.”

On Kalu’s health condition, Jacobs said there was no recent medical report to show his state of health, arguing that the medical report tendered in his case was done more than a year ago.

He added that the request by Kalu to be released on bail so as to seek traditiona­l medicine was not tenable, as visitors were allowed into the custodial centre.

“He says he needs his 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.

Citing the case of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vs. Joshua Dariye, he argued that the Nigerian criminal jurisprude­nce was robust enough to handle an appeal and dispense with same within a reasonable time.

Besides, he argued that the medical facilities at the Ikoyi Custodial Centre were capable of handling Kalu’s medical condition.

Delivering his judgment on the applicatio­n yesterday, Justice Liman after critically analysing all the arguments canvassed by the parties, and citing a plethora of authoritie­s, said: "The applicant has not furnished the court with enough health challenges to grant the applicatio­n."

The judge also stated that the people of the constituen­cy that the convict is representi­ng ought to have known that their representa­tive was facing a criminal charge before electing him to represent them and that the convict's argument that his representa­tion would be missed is discounten­anced.

He also discounten­anced the convicted senator's argument that the hearing and determinat­ion of his appeal might not be quick and being of good character.

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