Breaking: Supreme Court nullifies Orji Uzor Kalu's conviction

More Facts have emerged given the real reason
the embattled former governor of Abia state and chief Whip of the senate, Dr
Orji Uzor Kalu was freed at the apex court after exhaustive proceeding from the lower court that initially convicted him to twelve years in a correctional centre
in Abuja.

The apex court in a unanimous judgment by a
seven-man panel of Justices led by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, nullified the
entire proceedings that led to Kalu’s conviction, even as it ordered the Chief
Judge of the Federal High Court to re-assign the money laundering charge the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him and two
others, to another judge for re-trial.

Giving it reasons on the judgment read by Justice
Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court held that the trial High Court Judge, Justice
Mohammed Idris, acted without jurisdiction when he convicted Kalu, his firm,
Slok Nigeria Limited and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones

It noted that Justice Idris was no longer a
judge of the Federal High Court as at December 5, 2019, when he sat and
delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants for allegedly stealing
about N7.1billion from Abia state treasury.

It said having been elevated to the Court of
Appeal before then lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge.
It held that 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, ACJA,
2015, was unconstitutional.

The apex court held that no statute in
Nigeria empowered the Court of Appeal President to give vires to a Justice of
the appellate court to return to the High Court to deliver judgments in a
pending criminal trial, stressing that the Court of Appeal President, “acted
ultra-vires his powers when she purportedly gave the authorization” with
respect to Kalu’s case.

“The Federal High Court and the Court of
Appeal are all courts that were set up and established by the Constitution.

head of either court perform the function or interfere in the internal
activities of either court. “Just as the Court of Appeal President has no power
to assign case to any Federal High Court Judge, so also does the Federal High
Court Chief Judge lack the powers to interfere in the activities of the Court
of Appeal”, Justice Eko held.

held that the Court of Appeal President, by issuing a letter to Justice Idris
to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the trial of Kalu and his
co-defendants, usurped the power of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint
Judges for both superior courts, as well as the power of Chief Judge of the
High Court to assign cases to Judges under him. Consequently, the apex court
held that since Justice Idris returned to the trial court based on an unconstitutional directive by the Court of Appeal President, the judgment and
subsequent conviction of the defendants amounted to a nullity.

It, therefore, ordered that the charge in the suit
No. FHC/ABJ/CR/26/2017, which EFCC entered against Kalu and his co-defendants,
should be remitted back to Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for
re-assignment to any other judge for the trial to commence de-novo (afresh).

The judgment followed an appeal Kalu’s firm,
Slok lodged to challenge the jurisdiction of the high court that tried the
matter and found the defendants guilty. It will be recalled that Kalu who is
currently, the federal lawmaker representing Abia North Senatorial District,
Slok, and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu; were initially
convicted for allegedly using the firm to defraud the Government of Abia State
in the eight years, Kalu held sway as governor of the state.

Meanwhile,the  Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) said it
will commence retrial on Kalu since the apex court did not nullify his conviction.

The commission in a statement said although the supreme court
did not acquit him of the charges of money laundering, the court only upturned
the verdict of the trial court on the ground that Mohammed Liman, the judge who
heard the case was no longer a judge of the federal high court at the time he
handled and delivered judgment on the matter

The anti-graft agency described the judgment as a technical ambush
against the trial of the former governor.

”The attention of the Economic And Financial Crimes commission, EFCC, has been drawn to the judgment of the Supreme Court
nullifying the trial of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, his firm,
Slok Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account
of Abia State Government and ordering their fresh trial at the lower court,” it
said in a statement issued by Dele Oyewale, its spokesman.

”The apex court based its verdict on the grounds that
Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Kalu and others had been elevated to the
Court of Appeal before the judgment and returned to the lower court to deliver
the judgment which is considered as illegal.

”The EFCC considers the judgment of the apex court as quite unfortunate.
It is a technical ambush against the trial of the former governor.

”The Commission is prepared for a fresh and immediate trial
of the case because its evidence against Kalu and others is overwhelming. The
corruption charges against Kalu still subsist because the Supreme Court did not
acquit him of them. The entire prosecutorial machinery of the EFCC would be
launched in a fresh trial where justice is bound to be served in due course.”

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