Former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, who was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment over a N7.2billion fraud by the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos told correctional service officials “ 2023 here we come” while he was being led out of the courtroom.
Kalu, who is the Senate’s Chief Whip, smiled at journalists and repeated the statement before he was led out of the courtroom.
He was also seen asking prison warders, “where are you taking us to?”
Kalu pleaded with the prison officials not to handcuff him in public.
The former governor, who appeared shaken, said: “Where are you taking us to now? Please don’t handcuff me.
Earlier, Kalu wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief when Justice Mohammed Idris was reading an abridged version of the 288-page judgment.
His associate, Udeogu, was sentenced to 10 years in prison while the company which was used in committing the fraud, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to be wound up and all the assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
The case began in 2007 when the duo were first arraigned for fraud and money laundering.
Justice Idris held that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) proved that the convicts conspired and diverted N7.65billion from the coffers of the Abia State government.
The court found him and his co-defendants guilty of the entire 39 counts filed against them by the EFCC.
The judge sentenced Kalu to five years imprisonment each on counts one to 11 and three years each on counts 23 to 33.
He was also sentenced to 12 years each on 34 to 38 and five years on count 39.
The total sentence for the first convict is 133 years imprisonment, but he would only serve 12 years.
Justice Idris also sentenced the second convict to three years imprisonment each on counts 23 to 33, and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment each on counts 34 to 38, while he sentenced him to four years imprisonment on count 39.
The total sentence of Udeogu is 84 years but he would serve 10 years jail term.
Justice Idris said the sentence would run concurrently.
Before the pronouncement of the sentence, the judge held that money laundry offences are extremely difficult to prove, but the prosecution, in this case clearly proved the offence.
He described money laundry as a crime against humanity.
According to him, money laundry is anti-human and it is one of the dangerous offences in the world.
He said: “We are all committed to the fight of corruption and the judiciary without avoidance of doubt will only perform its role, in this right in accordance to the laid down laws, rules, and regulations.
“Let me state that for the avoidance of doubt, investigations must not only be carried out, but it must be properly undertaken, must be in-depth, must be decisive, must be thorough, must be comprehensive and above all conclusive.
“The first convict as a governor of a state who swore and pledged to discharge his duties, strive and preserve the lives of people in the interests of the country, has failed and acted contrary to his oath of office.”