Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, admitted in evidence a cover letter and a document tendered by a prosecution witness, Onovoe Ogenovoe, Head of Investigation, Fidelity Bank Plc, in a case involving a former governor of Abia State , Orji Uzor Kalu, and two others.
Kalu, alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Jones Ude, his former Commissioner for Finance, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 34-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N3.2 billion.
Counsel to the first defendant, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, had, on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, objected to the admissibility of the document, which contain 23 bank drafts issued by Fidelity Bank Plc between 2002 and 2005 during the administration of Kalu, on the grounds that they were certified by the EFCC and not the bank.
Ozekhome had also told the court that Ogenovoe was not the “marker of the documents.”
Tuesday’s sitting, counsels to both the second and third defendants also aligned with the submission of the counsel to the first defendant.
However, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had told the court that the witness could give evidence in court inasmuch as he was under oath.
Jacobs also stated that the prosecution could also file additional evidence at any given time.
Consequently, Justice Idris had adjourned ruling on the document to today (March 8).
At the resumed hearing today, Justice Idris ruled that “the written document by Fidelity Bank Plc is an original document. This document is admissible since it is an original document and need no certification buy the EFCC.
“I hold that once the letter has been validly accepted, the document attached to it also has the same legal weight.’’
Thereafter, the documents were admitted in evidence as exhibits A-A38.
In his testimony, Ogenovoe told the court that the drafts were prepared by the Abia State government House, but presented to different beneficiaries at Apapa, Lagos between 2002 and 2005 during the administration of Kalu.
Also, another prosecution witness, PW2, Christina Onyinymerie, Branch Manager, United Bank of Africa (UBA), Umuahia, told the court that she received a request in late 2006 from the bank’s head office, asking for documents of transactions in respect of the accused persons in the beginning of 2006.
The PW2 also the court that the administration of governor Kalu maintained some accounts with UBA, Umuahia Branch as follows: Abia State Board of Internal Revenue, Abia State Judiciary and Government House, Umuahia.
However, when Jacobs wanted to tender the letter from UBA to the EFCC and the account statement of the Government House, Umuahia, as exhibits, Ozekhome, again, objected on the grounds that only two pages of the documents bore the UBA Logo.
Ozekhome also told the court that the documents were certified by the EFCC instead of UBA, who was the marker of the documents, adding that the name of the PW2 was not listed among the 19 prosecution witnesses submitted by the prosecution.
He, therefore, urged the court not to allow the PW2 to give evidence in the matter.
Having listened to both counsels, Justice Idris adjourned to March 9, 2017 for ruling on the admissibility of the document and continuation of trial.