A former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, on Tuesday said he did not steal N7.2 billion while in office between 1999 and 2007. He said during his tenure, the state had no such fund.
Kalu spoke while continuing his testimony before Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos to prove his innocence of the allegation levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Responding to a question from his lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), during a cross-examination, the former governor said there was no way he could have stolen what did not exist.
“Abia State didn’t have such amount. Even on the day I was leaving, we borrowed money to pay salaries. Abia State didn’t have even a billion naira in any account at the time I was governor,” he said.
To back up his claim, Kalu, who is currently the Senate Chief Whip, emphasised the difficulties he encountered in running the state with Federal Government allocations.
“The monthly allocation for Abia State when I took over in June 1999 was N168 million. It was averaging between N168 million and N172 million monthly. The first month that I came in, there was even no money to buy diesel. I spent my own money to run the state for six months.
“In the Year 2000, the monthly allocation was between N170 million and N189 million. In 2001, it came from about N302 million to about N380 million. I can recollect in 2002 that it was almost the same, and in 2003, when the revenue allocation was changed, we were having about N400 million.
“The highest money I got as governor was in 2004 when we had about N1 billion. From that time up till May 2007, before I left, what we had was N1.6 billion.
“Throughout my stay in office, I never owed salary and pension. When I took over as governor and before I left, we moved it up to N500 million. It was from this we were able to do a lot of things.”
In his evidence, Kalu had told the court that he was a successful businessman before venturing into politics.
Speaking on his line of businesses before he began his political journey, he said: “I was running a group of companies under Slok Nigeria Limited. I have a big furniture factory in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. I was also trading in cows. The cows were coming from Chad to Umuahia, the Abia State capital. I also had a vegetable oil factory in Aba supplying to people in Kano and Maiduguri.
“I was also into shipping activities with major oil companies. We also have a very big corn farm in the East and Bauchi.
“We were a major shareholder before another shareholder bought off First Bank. In 1994, the then Hallmark Bank had a problem and I later bought the majority stake in the bank. We also had major interests in banks in DR Congo, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the then Sudan before crisis set in.”
The former governor also said he dealt in buying and selling of property, adding that he made his statements to the EFCC under bad treatment from some police officers.
“When I learnt they were looking for me, I called Ibrahim Lamorde (the then EFCC Chairman) that I was in the United States and that I would show up upon my return to the country.
“But when I returned to Nigeria, they were waiting for me at the airport and they whisked me away to their office. After I was beaten up thoroughly by police officers, I asked them what was my offence and they told me I had been insulting (then) President (Olusegun) Obasanjo. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (pioneer EFCC Chairman) and Ibrahim Lamorde later came to apologise to me.”