FG appeals judgment stopping Orji Kalu’s retrial for fraud
THE Federal Government has asked the Court of Appeal in Abuja, to order a fresh trial of the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, over an alleged N7.1 billion laundering charge against him.
The government is asking the appellate court to set aside the September 29 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which prohibited it from retrying the former governor and his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited.
The Federal Government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is also asking the Court to order Senator Kalu and his company to appear for retrial, in line with the order of the Supreme Court in its May 8, 2020 judgment, which annulled the earlier trial and conviction of Kalu and two others and ordered a retrial.
The requests were contained in two notices of appeal, filed by an EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, against the two judgments delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Recall that the Federal High Court in Abuja had earlier in September barred the Federal Government from retrying Kalu, on the N7.1 billion money laundering charge, which the EFCC earlier preferred against him.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court held that the Supreme Court did not in the verdict it gave on May 8, 2020, order the retrial of either Kalu or his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited.
Kalu was serving a 12-year jail term for N7.1 billion fraud when the Supreme Court, ruling on an appeal by his co-defendant, Ude Udeogu, on May 8, 2020, nullified the proceedings leading to their conviction.
Although the Supreme Court had ordered a retrial at the Federal High Court; Kalu, who profited from the ruling to secure his release from the Kuje Correctional Centre filed an application before the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop his retrial.
Justice Ekwo today granted the ex-governor’s request on the grounds that the apex court’s judgment did not order his retrial and that by virtue of Section 36 (9) of the 1999 constitution as amended, or Section 283 (2) of the ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice Act), “no person can be retried on the offense upon which he has been convicted”.
But the EFCC in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, argued that the judge erred in this ruling as it said Section 36(9) of the 1999 Constitution was applicable only where the previous judgment was by a court of competent jurisdiction.
It would be recalled that the apex court had in the said judgment, described the process that led to the conviction of Kalu as a nullity citing that the judge came from the Court of Appeal to decide the matter.
Furthermore, the anti-graft agency argued that the court erred in its ruling that the Supreme Court did not order the retrial of Kalu; saying it amounts to cherry-picking for Kalu to profit from the decision of the apex court nullifying the conviction of his co-defendant, Ude Udeagu but is not prepared to face the burden of retrial.