9TH NASS: Why Senate Chief Whip wept bitterly at Valedictory Session

Sharon EboesomiJune 10, 20235 min

Perceived in many quarters as corrupt, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu laments ‘thief tag’ placed on him, ‘explains’ source of wealth before sojourn into politics

 

 

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Senate

 

The valedictory session of the Ninth Senate has been held on Saturday, eliciting reactions from citizens across the country.

The session, which is the last official meeting for lawmakers elected to the Red Chamber in 2019, featured speeches by various Senators. The lawmakers who took turns to recall their sojourn in the legislature over the last four years expressed gratitude to their colleagues and the leadership of the Senate for the support they got in carrying out their legislative duties in the period under review.

However, in a sombre moment for the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the Abia lawmaker lamented what he described as unfair treatment by Nigerians to him despite his several contributions to the country.

Expressing disappointment over the alleged humiliation he has been through at the hands of government agents, he emphasised that those who cannot explain the source of their wealth walk around freely, but those who work hard in business are being harassed. However, Senator Kalu, who represents Abia North Senatorial District, thanked the outgoing Ninth Senate members for standing by him during his difficult times.

 

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In an apparent battle to fight off tears, the Igbere-born politician explained that he had made money as a businessman before his involvement in politics and further corroborated his point with a claim that he financed the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 1998 and 1999 under whose platform he served as governor of his home state for two consecutive terms (1999 – 2007).

The lawmaker, in his tears also lamented that those he had supported financially to travel to Lagos in the past now live in wealth; yet he carries the label of being a thief. “When I had a problem, most of the Senators stood by me. We went through difficult period,” Kalu said during an emotional speech.

“Before I went into politics, I can buy anything I wanted to buy. I am not a thief. People I gave transport money to Victoria Island (VI) are now in wealth and living as saint while I am being called a thief. This country is not fair to some of us. People who cannot explain their source of wealth are not thieves,” he stressed.

“I have factories in Lagos, Aba and Ota in Ogun State, they call me a thief,” the lawmaker added.

 

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A Member of the Third House of Representatives, Kalu, had on December 5, 2019, been sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly stealing public funds while in office as governor of his home state, Abia. Ude Udeogu, who served as Director of Finance and Accounts for the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure as governor, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Slok Nigeria Limited, Senator Kalu’s company, was ordered to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Nigerian government.

The conviction, which was a fallout of a criminal charge brought against the duo by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly conspiring and diverting N7.65 billion from the coffers of the state, was despite his election to the Red Chamber and being made the Chief Whip of the Ninth Senate in June 2019.  Following the commencement of the jail term, however, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, against public expectations, declined to declare Kalu’s seat in parliament vacant,

Apparently dissatisfied with the court judgement, the duo filed an appeal to challenge their sentencing at the Supreme Court leading a seven-member panel of the apex court in a unanimous decision to set aside the judgement of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court which convicted and sentenced Messrs Kalu and Udeogu.

The judgement of the Supreme Court delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, declared that Kalu and Udeogu’s conviction was null and void on the ground that the trial judge was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal at the time of the judgment which convicted the appellants. The Court further held that a Justice of the Court of Appeal could not operate as a judge of the Federal High Court and also quashed the conviction of Ude Udeogu.

 

Sharon Eboesomi

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