The trial of criminal allegations against Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State, ended with less exciting headlines on Thursday but there were some hilarious moments.
Justice Mohammed Idris sitting at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, adjourned the case till October 22 for parties to close their arguments. This was after a long session of examination and cross-examination of witnesses.
However, before the trial was adjourned, there were pockets of moments when everyone took time to laugh despite the severity of the case—39 counts charges on money laundering and conspiracy being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Overzealous bodyguard and smiling defendant
Kalu had taken the leave of the court to briefly step out while the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, was cross-examining the second defendant, Ude Udeogu, Kalu’s Commissioner for Finance when he was governor of Abia State.
Going back into the courtroom, journalists took the opportunity to get fresh pictures of the former governor but the bodyguard would have none of it.
The bodyguard, dressed in a suit and ready to prove to his boss that he is worth his pay, expertly shielded Kalu from camera clicks.
“It is enough. Haven’t you taken enough pictures,” he asked.
A smiling Kalu quickly cautioned him to allow the journalist to do her job.
“Allow her, allow her. Let her take pictures,” he cautioned.
Scandalous questions-free zone
The defence counsel had brought an expert witness to testify in the defence of Udeogu. The witness, a banker with over 20 years’ experience, gave expert opinion on banking procedures as it regards liquidating bank drafts and cheques.
Time for the prosecutor to cross-examine the witness, Jacob, bent on discrediting the witness, began asking questions to impure on the witness’ testimony. At a point, he said to the witness, “I put it to you that you were sacked from your former job as a banker.”
The witness cleverly responded, “If you show me evidence of that, I will respond accordingly.”
He asked again, “I put it to you that you were sacked and no bank would hire you afterwards.”
Awa Kalu, legal counsel of Kalu, had had enough, he stood up and asked the judge to caution the prosecutor from asking scandalous questions.
“Don’t ask scandalous questions,” the judge cautioned.
Justice Mohammad Idris does not fly
The cross-examination ended a few more questions after Jacobs was cautioned. The baton was passed to KC Nworfor (SAN), the counsel for the 3rd defendant, to produce his witness. Unfortunately, the senior advocate could not. He told the court that he was not satisfied with the witness provided to represent the bank. He then asked for an adjournment, however, with a caveat that the court has the discretion not to entertain his request adjournment.
The judge took the option and denied the request for an adjournment. Consequently, Nworfor was forced to close his case. But in justifying the reason for denying the request, justice Idris said he has had a busy week and also needed to return to the Appeal Court for the election tribunal.
To drive home his message, the judge told the court that he does not fly and has had to travel by road from Rivers State.
“I had to go by road because I don’t fly,” the judge said repeatedly.
This led to laughter from lawyers and journalist, who had maintained a pin drop silence throughout the proceeding.
Kalu pose for the cameras
The case was adjourned and the defendants were let out of the witness box. Kalu again had to contend with insatiable journalists waiting to capture him with their cameras.
The former governor, looking at the camera held by Sahara Reporterscorrespondent, jocularly asked why the journalist was running to take his picture.
“Why are you running? I am here. You can take my picture as many times as you want,” he said.
In all, it was a loaded day at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, as proceedings in the courtroom and events within the premises combined to provide an irresistible attraction for all present.