A former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who is serving 12-year imprisonment for N7.65billion fraud and money laundering, on Tuesday prayed the Federal High Court in Lagos to grant him bail, pending the hearing of his appeal against his conviction.
Kalu told Justice Mohammad Liman that he is battling serious health challenges and he needs to seek the medical services of his herbalist.
The Senate’s Chief Whip and senator representing Abia North Senatorial District claimed that the medical facilities in the correctional centre cannot handle his ailment.
Kalu, who was convicted of the offences by Justice Mohammad Idris on December 5, is serving his term at the Ikoyi Custodial Centre, Lagos
The judge convicted Kalu, a Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure, Udeh Udeogu, and Kalu’s firm, Slok Nigeria Ltd on each of the 39 counts.
Justice Mohammed Idris sentenced Kalu to 133 years imprisonment, Udeogu to 56 years imprisonment and ordered that Slok be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
The sentences will run concurrently, the judge said, meaning Kalu will only spend a maximum of 12 years in jail.
Tuesday, Kalu’s counsel, Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) informed the court of a bail application he filed on behalf of the former governor, seeking to be released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal against the judgment.
He told the court that the application was premised on 23 grounds and supported by a 38-paragraph affidavit.
Fagbemi said after receiving the counter-affidavit filed by the prosecution, he filed a 34-paragraph further affidavit with one exhibit attached.
The SAN also drew the court’s attention to a notice of appeal against Kalu’s conviction, and relied on the provisions of Sections 241 of the Constitution in urging the court to grant the bail.
“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 the bail would enable Kalu to attend to his health as well return to the National Assembly to serve the nation.
But 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 crystallized 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 carry out his official functions,” the SAN 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.
Justice Liman adjourned the case until December 23 for ruling on the bail application.