The Supreme Court on Friday nullified the conviction ex-governor of Abia state, Senator Orji Kalu Udeh Udeogu by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Lagos division of the Federal High Court for N7.65 billion fraud allegation leveled against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The Justices of the apex court in a unanimous judgment said they were overturning the 12 and 10 years prison sentences imposed on Kalu and Udeogu respectively as punishment for the fraud allegation because Justice Idris was no longer a Judge of the Federal High Court when he delivered the verdict.
The Apex Court Justices therefore declared that the Judge acted out of jurisdiction when he delivered the judgment on Dec. 5, 2019.
In the lead judgment read by Justice Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court justices also held that section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 which allows the President of the Court of Appeal to issue a fiat to Justice Idris to go back to adjudicate on the case after his elevation to higher bench is a nullity as it conflicts with the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
“Liman was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at the time he sat and delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants for allegedly stealing about N7.1 billion from Abia state treasury, his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu.
According to the judgement, `Justice Liman, having been elevated to the Court of Appeal before then, lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge.
“The Fiat that was issued to him by the Court of Appeal President pursuant to section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was unconstitutional.
But the Supreme Court Justices did not declare Kalu and Udeogu free of the accusations against them.
Rather, they ordered that the case file should be remitted to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge of the court for fresh trial.