Alleged N7.1bn fraud: Court fixes July 2 for Orji Uzor Kalu’s retrial

Orji Uzor Kalu:

By Wandoo Sombo
The Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday, fixed July 2 for adoption of all processes filed by parties in a suit by former Abia Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, seeking to stop his retrial.
The court had in February granted Kalu leave to challenge the legality of the retrial.
At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, counsel to the former governor, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN)  told the court that the respondents had served on him their counter affidavits.
Responding, counsel to the 1st respondent (EFCC) Oluwaleke Atolagbe, the 2nd respondent,  Mr George Ukaegbu  and the 3rd respondent, Mr  K.C Nwufor  all admitted having filed and exchanged processes.
In a short ruling, the judge, Justice  Inyang Ekwo said since all parties had “joined issues”, the court had taken over control of the case.
Ekwo adjourned the matter until July 2 for adoption.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kalu, a senator representing Abia North, is seeking an order of court  prohibiting the EFCC from retrying him on the same alleged N7.1 billion money laundering charge against him.
He contented that having been tried once by EFCC, convicted and sentenced in the same charge, FHC/ABJ/CR/56/ 2007,  it would amount to double jeopardy for him  to be subjected to a fresh trial on the same charge.
The former governor had also applied for an order prohibiting the  EFCC from retrying, harrassing and intimidating him with respect to the said  charge  or any other charge based on same facts as he need not suffer double jeopardy.
NAN reports that Kalu was earlier found guilty and handed a 12-year jail term by the Lagos Division of the court.

The trial court convicted the former governor alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, for alleged N7.1 billion fraud  from the state treasury.

However, the Supreme Court, in its judgement on May 8, quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial of the defendants by the EFCC.

In a unanimous decision by a seven-member panel of Justices, the Supreme Court, nullified the entire proceedings that led to Kalu’s conviction, stressing that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, was already elevated to the Court of Appeal, as at the time he sat and delivered a judgement against the defendants.

It noted that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at December 5, 2019, the day the former governor and his co-defendants were found guilty of the money laundering charge against them.

According to the Supreme Court, Justice Idris, having been elevated to the Court of Appeal before then, lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge.