Nigeria: Why Orji Kalu's Seat Won't Be Declared Vacant - Senate

8 December 2019

The Senate has said it will not declare the seat of its convicted chief whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, vacant.

The Senate spokesperson, Godiya Akwashiki, disclosed this to Punch Newspaper.

Such a declaration, he said, is against the law.

The lawmaker said no provision in the Nigerian Constitution says the seat of a senator facing prosecution or convicted at a lower court should be declared vacant.

The trial/conviction

The Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday sentenced Mr Kalu to 12 years in prison after convicting him of N7.65 billion fraud.

Mr Kalu, a former governor of Abia State, was pronounced guilty of the charge in a trial that lasted for 12 years.

The ex-governor was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on July 11, 2007. He was tried alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Mr Kalu's tenure as governor.

He was later released on bail and accused the Olusegun Obasanjo regime of persecuting him during and after his tenure in office, an accusation mentioned by former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell in his book, "Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink."

In October 2016, EFCC reopened its prosecution and preferred 34 counts charges against Messrs Kalu and Udeogo. But they pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bail.

The EFCC ultimately reactivated Mr Kalu's case last year, filing amended graft charges of up to N7.7 billion against him. And on Thursday, Justice Idris pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

No reason to declare his seat vacant

Mr Akwashiki said Mr Kalu's seat will not be declared vacant until he (Mr Kalu) has explored all the legal options available to him without success.

The Senate has no reason to declare his seat vacant and Mr Kalu still has the opportunity to appeal the case, he said.

"Even the tenure of a former governor Joshua Dariye, who has been in prison for some time now, ran its course until the end of the 8th National Assembly. Nobody declared his seat vacant.

"The Senate President cannot declare the seat of Kalu vacant. It is against the law. Tell those who are canvassing such things that there is nothing like that, it is a non-issue,"

When asked if the convicted chief whip will continue to receive salaries while in prison, Mr Akwashiki said the National Assembly bureaucracy determines the payment of senators based on the template from the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC).

Efforts to reach the spokesperson RMFAC, Ibrahim Mohammed, were unsuccessful.

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