N7.2 billion fraud: If PDP were a company, I would own 90 per cent – Orji Kalu – TODAY

N7.2 billion fraud: If PDP were a company, I would own 90 per cent – Orji Kalu - TODAY
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A former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, says if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were to be a company, he would own 90 per cent of it.

He said this during his statement of defence on Tuesday before a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

Mr Kalu, who is a senator representing Abia North, is facing trial for alleged corruption when he served as governor between 1999 and 2007.

“Before I became governor, we were forming PDP in my house in Maryland. If PDP were a company, I will own 90 per cent. The N5 million that was used to register PDP in 1998 was provided by me. I provided the majority of the money used in running PDP.

“When Obasanjo came out of prison, I gave him N100 million to fund his campaign,” he said while explaining how he dabbled into politics from business.

The former governor also said he ran Abia State with his personal funds in the first six months of his governorship.

“When I came in as governor, there was no money to buy diesel in Government House. I used my money to run the state in the first six months. As at June 1999, the monthly allocation to Abia State was averaging between N168-172 million. ”

Mr Kalu told the court that the highest allocations the state got while he was in office were from November 2004.

“The highest I got as governor came November 2004 when we got N1 billion. From then till May 2007, what we had was N1.6billion. That was the highest we got during my time as governor and I never owed salaries or pensions.”

Asked by his counsel, Awa Kalu, to make statements on the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state, the former governor said the revenue generated by the state when he became governor was N5million.

“Internal revenue when I took over was N5million monthly but before I left, it was over N500 million monthly. I invited a man from Kwara who gave us a plan on how to increase revenue.”

Asked to give the court an idea of what the state expenditure under him was like, Mr Kalu said he met a recurrent expenditure that ran into N133million monthly.

“In 1999, I met a salary bill of N133 million. This includes pension and gratuities. In 1999 when I came in, the House of Assembly passed a bill to make education totally free and we made a lot of investment in education.

“We subsidised university education in the state by N97,000 per student, irrespective of where you came from.”

He also told the court that he never handled the award of contracts as a governor.

“For accountability, a central account was made. I didn’t award contracts. Every commissioner was in charge of their ministry. I put a ceiling of a certain amount which a ministry can spend. We were the first state in Nigeria to publish our accounts in Nigeria and it is the reason Obasanjo tagged me ‘action governor’.”

When his counsel asked if the state had the alleged stolen amount somewhere all through his administration, Mr Kalu informed the court that he had to use a bank overdraft to pay salaries when he was leaving the office.

“When I was leaving office in May 2007, it was overdraft we used to pay salaries. It was the year the president refused to release allocation.”

Speaking on his life before politics, Mr Kalu said he was a major shareholder in different banks and his businesses and had more money than the balance of Nigerian Breweries.

“Before I became governor, we were running a group of companies under Slok Group. We had a furniture factory in Maiduguri, we had a vegetable oil factory in Aba and supplied to three big clients. We traded in sugar and rice occasionally, we did lesser arms importation for the Ministry of Defence. We were into shipping with Exxon Mobil, Agip, Total and other major oil companies, we were doing offshore supplies, we had a big corn farm in the east and some barns in Bauchi.

“I can confidently tell you that our balance sheet was bigger than that of Nigeria Breweries because we used the same auditor. ”

He also told the court that he held properties and a factory in the US and had since resigned from Slok in 1998 before becoming a governor. He also confirmed that he was currently a senator under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

Prosecuting counsel, Adeniyi Adebisi, made an objection to the fact that the defendant has started giving witness in court on the evidence before the court when the 1st defendant was asked by his counsel to make comments on evidence given in court by prosecution witnesses.

“Before the 1st defendant started, he informed the court that he would be relying on section 358 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and that he would not be sworn under oath but will make statements from the dock.

“I don’t know if this extends to him making statements on evidence given by witnesses before this court. He is giving evidence in relation to witnesses before the court and giving evidence to the court.”

The judge, Mohammed Idris, however, overruled his objection, stating that the defendant could give statements on the evidence whether orally or written.

After closing of defence by the 1st defendant, counsel to the second defendant, Emmanuel Utegbu, asked to be given till Wednesday to open their defence as they had not envisaged that the first defendant would close its case in a day.”

He also informed the court that he had about five defence witnesses and he would present them all before the court tomorrow.

The matter was subsequently adjourned till Wednesday for the second defendant to open his defence.

Mr Kalu, alongside his former Commissioner of Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Limited, is facing an amended 39 counts charge of money laundering to the tune of N7.6billion.

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