A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday dismissed an application for post-conviction bail filed by former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, who is serving a 12-year imprisonment for N7.65billion fraud.
Justice Mohammad Liman ordered Kalu to remain in correctional services custody pending the outcome of his appeal against his conviction.
Justice Mohammad Liman held that there was no valid ground for granting the application.
He discountenanced the grounds of ill-health raised by Kalu, saying that he did not prove that the diseases he mentioned were contagious.
Liman also discountenanced some other grounds.
One of the grounds was that the bail would enable Kalu to represent his constituency in the Senate, the judge held that his constituents knew that he was on trial and still voted him into power.
Another grounds was premised on the fact that the appeal might be delayed, Idris said that the developments had broken past records on that.
“It is not in dispute that there are practice directions involved in appeal, but in recent times, this practice directions have been recently enhanced for speedy hearing and determination of high profile corruption cases.
“I believe the applicant can take advantage of these rules to run through the appeal channel.
“I found nothing in favour of the applicant in this application; it is, therefore, discountenanced,” the judge ruled.
Arguing a bail application of Jones Udeogo, charged, convicted and jailed along with Kalu, his counsel, Mr S. E. Elema (SAN), urged the court to grant him bail on grounds of ill-health.
Elema said that Udeogo, the Commissioner of Finance in Abia during Kalu’s tenure as the governor, had tuberculosis and cancer.
Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Adebisi Adeniyi, however, opposed the application.
The court adjourned the case on Udeogo’s bail application until January 17, 2019 for ruling.
Kalu had on Dec. 17, prayed the court to grant him bail from the Ikoyi Custodial Centre pending determination of an appeal against his conviction.
Justice Mohammed had on December 5 convicted Kalu and sentenced him to a concurrent jail term of 12 years for N7.2 billion fraud.
The EFCC prosecuted Kalu together with Udeogo and Kalu’s company, Slok Nig. Ltd.
They were charged on an amended 39 counts of fraud.
The trial, which started in 2007, recorded some setbacks but eventually ended in October 2019 when parties in the suit adopted written submissions.
The judge found Kalu and Slok Nig. Ltd. guilty of all the 39 counts of the charge, and convicted Udeogo on 34 counts.
Idris sentenced Udeogo to a concurrent 10 years’ jail term and ordered that Slok Nig. Ltd. should be wound up and all its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
Kalu’s counsel, Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) had premised the bail application on 23 grounds supported by a 38-paragraph affidavit.
“If there is a right of appeal, then there is a corresponding right of bail pending appeal,” he said.
Citing Sections 6 of the Constitution, Fagbemi argued that the court had the powers to entertain such an application since post-judgement jurisdiction were anchored on the section.
He said that the bail would enable Kalu to attend to his health as well return to the National Assembly to carry out service to the nation.
However, EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), opposed the bail application.
“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 crystslised into guilt and conviction,” he said.
According to Jacobs, an application for bail pending appeal is sparingly granted.
He said that such a bail could be granted in a situation where the term of imprisonment would have elapsed before determination of the appeal.
He argued that that was not the situation with Kalu’s case.
On Kalu’s health condition, Jacobs said that 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.
Jacobs added that the request by Kalu to be released on bail so as to seek traditional medicine was not a 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 carryout his official functions,” he said.
Citing the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Joshua Dariye, he argued that the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence was robust enough to handle 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.