The ten-year old trial of former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu before a Federal High Court, Lagos could not proceed on Tuesday as scheduled.
This followed the absence in court of a key prosecution witness, Mr Mike Udoh.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Kalu alongside others on behalf of the Federal Government.
Kalu, Udeh Jones Udeogu and his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited were first arraigned ten years ago at the Abuja Federal high court before the case was discontinued and transferred to Lagos to start de novo.
The suspects were thereafter re-arraigned October 31, 2016 by the EFCC before Justice Mohammed Idris on a 34-count charge of N3.2 billion fraud.
They pleaded not guilty.
At the commencement of proceedings Tuesday, EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob, informed the court that the matter was due for continuation of trial but that he could not proceed because he could not find his star witness.
Jacob told Justice Idris that the witness, Udoh, had repeatedly made himself unavailable whenever he was due to appear in court to give his testimony.
He accused some unknown persons of being behind Udoh’s absence and vowed that they would be prosecuted.
He said: “Our main witness that we intended to call, we have approached him for more than six months. We have noticed that each time the matter is coming up, he will just travel to Umuahia or Calabar or Cameroun.
“He always has the dates of the matter and I was forced to apply for a subpoena.
“Your Lordship signed one, which we took to the Abia State Government because we found out that he was a civil servant. But he has since left the service.
“He was supposed to come today but switched off his phone. EFCC went to his house in Umuahia yesterday and this morning but met his wife who said he travelled to Calabar. Despite all our efforts, we have not been able to bring him.”
He prayed for a short adjournment of about a week to enable the agency round off its case.
“We have information that some people are behind his not showing up. We are investigating and will charge the persons. As we speak, our operatives are in Abia, but they can’t pick up the wife in place of the husband,” Jacob said.
Kalu’s counsel, Mr Awa Kalu (SAN), accused the EFCC of a ploy to foist an adjournment on the court.
He said: “The defendants have been diligent in presenting themselves for trial, but the prosecution has been engaging in push and starts. The second defendant is a retired civil servant.
“The first defendant (Kalu) is a politically exposed person. There are four senior counsel with at least one junior all at the defendants’ cost.
“Yet we are here only to be told of circumstances beyond the prosecution’s control.
“There are many witnesses listed by the prosecution. The non-appearance of one of them cannot foist an adjournment on this case.”
Second defendant (Udeogu)’s counsel, Solo Akuma (SAN) and that of the third defendants (Slok), C.C. Nwofo adopted Kalu’s submissions.
The case continues on January 22 and 23.