Saturday, December 21, 2019 12:04 pm
By Ikeddy Isiguzo
If the Herbalists Association of Nigeria, HAN, were a more organised body, it should have sent a delegation to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who from his incarceration in Kuje Correction Centre (new name for our prisons) has done more for the association than anyone in living memory. Orji has told us that he is ailing.
The Very Important Prisoners, VIP, is seeking bail on medical grounds. Orji’s case is shaking the frontiers of our justice system. Lawyers would learn by 23 December whether a convict can be granted bail on medical grounds. Orji is not yet done with the system. He believes his legislative skills would be missed in the Senate. He calls it national service.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFFC, argued that Orji should use the medical facilities in Kuje, the same that are available to other inmates. The suggestion is completely beneath Orji. How can he use facilities for ordinary prisoners? He is VIP in every circumstance – Very Important Prisoner now; Very Important Personality in other circumstances.
Orji will go down in our history as the first prisoner, of any status, to ask for a herbalist as his preferred medical care provider. If you thought that herbalists were for more uncanny practices like cooking up concoctions for decidedly harmful purposes, perish the thought. Nollywood has done a lot in promoting the nefarious sides of herbalists that many forget that they are healers; whatever they heal.
In any case, Kalu remains a patriot. He did not ask to be treated abroad. As a serving Senator, Nigeria would have paid for his medical expenses abroad. Maybe, if the herbalist fails, another appeal may be necessary to ask for a medical trip abroad.
Lateef Fagbemi, his lawyer, seeks Kalu’s release from prison pending the outcome of his bail appeal. Kalu, Senator for Abia North, was sentenced to 12 years in jail on 5 December for a N7.6 billion fraud. Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, has penned 23 grounds, supported by a 38-paragraph affidavit for Kalu’s bail. He filed another 34-paragraph affidavit with one exhibit attached, in response to the prosecution. He also used a notice of appeal against Kalu’s conviction based on 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 of bail pending appeal,” he said, anchoring the powers of the court to hear the application on Section 6 of the
Constitution. Kalu wants to attend to his health and return to the National Assembly to continue legislating for Nigerians.
EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, 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 crystallised into guilt and conviction,” said Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. “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 carry out his official functions,” he said.
EFCC had on 31 October 2016, preferred a 34-count charge bordering on N3.2 billion fraud against the convicts. The charge was, however, on 16 July 2018, amended and increased to 39 counts with the sum increased to N7.2 billion. EFCC had charged Kalu with utilising Slok Nigeria Limited to retain N200 million in the First Inland Bank (now FCMB). The convicts diverted cumulatively over N7.2 billion from the Abia State treasury during Kalu’s tenure as the Governor, in contravention of Sections 15 (6), 16 and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005, Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by Act No.9 of 2002, and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act of 1990, the charges read.
From the filings in court, herbalists would get more free mentions in the course of the hearings since they are an item in the appeal. The herbalist may even testify in court. It is another Kalu contribution to the development of native or traditional medicine which leaves little to wonder about the state of health services in Abia State in his eight years as Governor.
Kalu regularly travelled abroad for medical care, we never knew that his healer was in Nigeria, a herbalist. So what did he do during at least foreign medical trips in the course of the trials – June 2018, and November 2018?