Convicted former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu has urged a Federal High Court in Lagos to release him from jail on health ground.
Kalu, who was convicted and sentenced by Justice Mohammad Idris to 12-year imprisonment for N7.1bn fraud and money laundering, made the appeal in a post trial bail application.
The convict, who is still a serving Senator, is seeking the bail pending the hearing and determination of his Appeal, challenging his conviction.
Kalu, in an application he filed on Tuesday, told the court that he is battling serious health challenges that the medical facilities in the prison cannot handle.
He emphasised that as the Chief Whip of the Senate and the senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, the interest of his constituents would be in jeopardy if he was kept behind bars.
According to him, because the offences he was convicted of were bailable, the appellate court should free him while he challenges his conviction.
The respondent in Kalu’s application is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
EFCC is opposing the post-trial bail application.
When the case was called on Tuesday, Kalu’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) informed the court of a bail application he filed on behalf of the former governor, seeking to be released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal against the judgement.
Fagbemi told the court that the application was premised on 23 grounds and supported by a 38-paragraph affidavit.
Fagbemi added that after receiving the counter-affidavit filed by prosecution, he filed a 34-patagraph further affidavit with one exhibit attached.
Fagbemi also drew the court’s attention to a notice of appeal against Kalu’s conviction, and relied on the provisions of Sections 241 of the Constitution in urging the court to grant the bail.
“If there is a right of appeal, then there is a corresponding right of⁷ bail pending appeal,” he said.
Citing Sections 6 of the Constitution, Fagbemi argued that the court had the powers to entertain such an application since post-judgement jurisdiction were anchored on the section.
He said that the bail would enable Kalu to attend to his health as well return to the National Assembly to carry out service to the nation.
However, EFCC counsel, Mr RotimI Jacobs (SAN), opposed the bail application.
“Although bail is generally a right of an accused as guaranteed by the Constitution, it is not a right available to a convict because the presumption of innocence had crystslised into guilt and conviction,” he said.
According to Jacobs, an application for bail pending appeal is sparingly granted.
He said that such a bail could be granted in a situation where the term of imprisonment would have elapsed before determination of the appeal.
He argued that that was not the situation with Kalu’s case.
On Kalu’s health condition, Jacobs said that there was no recent medical report to show his state of health, arguing that the medical report tendered in his case was done more than a year ago.
Jacobs added that the request by Kalu to be released on bail so as to seek traditional medicine was not a tenable, as visitors were allowed into the custodial centre.
“He says he needs his herbalist to treat him but he has not said that his herbalist came to the prison and was not allowed to see him.
“In one breath, the applicant is saying that he wants to be released on health grounds while in another breath, he is saying that as a senator, he needs to be released on bail so as to carryout his official functions,” he said.
Citing the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Joshua Dariye, he argued that the Nigerian criminal jurisprudence was robust enough to handle appeal and dispense with same within a reasonable time.
Besides, he argued that the medical facilities at the Ikoyi Custodial Centre were capable of handling Kalu’s medical condition.
Justice Mohammed Liman adjourned the case until December 23 for ruling on the bail application.