Appeal Court stops FG's bid to re-open trial of ex-Abia Gov, Uzor Kalu - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Appeal Court stops FG's bid to re-open trial of ex-Abia Gov, Uzor Kalu

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, struck out an appeal the Federal Government filed to re-open the trial of a former Governor of Abia Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu.

The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, held that the record of appeal FG transmitted before it, was incompetent.

In the lead verdict that was delivered by Justice J. O. K. Oyewole, the court held that FG failed to properly transmit the record as prescribed by its extant rules, adding that it was neither stamped nor the official designation of the person that signed it, indicated.  

The appellate court held that the flaw in the record that was brought before it, vitiated the competence of the entire appeal. 

Consequently, it struck out the two appeals marked: CA/ABJ/CV/797/2021 and CA/ABJ/CV/798/2021, which FG filed against Kalu and his firm.

It will be recalled that Kalu, who piloted the affairs of Abia State from 1999 to 2007, was earlier convicted and handed a 12-year jail term by the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

The trial court convicted him alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and a former Director of Finance in the state, Mr. Jones Udeogu.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had alleged that the defendants pilfered about N7.1billion from the Abia State treasury.

However, following an appeal that was lodged by Udeogu, the Supreme Court quashed his conviction and remitted the case-file back for retrial.

A seven-man panel of justices of the apex court noted that trial Justice Mohammed Idris was already elevated to the Court of Appeal as at the time he sat and delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants.

It held that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the High Court as at December 5, 2019, the day Kalu 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. 

Based on the judgement in favour of Udeogu, Kalu, who was already serving his jail term, through his lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu, SAN, applied to be released from the Kuje correctional center.

Shortly after the former governor was released from prison, the EFCC moved to re-arraign him and his co-defendants again.

Dissatisfied with the move, both Kalu who is currently the Senator representing Abia North, and his firm, filed separate suits to challenge their retrial.

Kalu argued that allowing the EFCC to try him afresh on the charge and same facts upon which he was earlier convicted and sentenced, would occasion him to suffer a "double jeopardy".

According to him, "The unassailable position of the law is that no person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted, shall again be tried for that offence having the same ingredients as that offence, save upon the order or a competent Court.

"The trial of the Applicant having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court in its judgment dated the 8th day of May, 2020 and without more, cannot entitle the EFCC to institute the same charge against the Applicant"

Canvassing reasons why his trial should not commence de-novo (afresh), Kalu, said he was earlier convicted and sentenced with respect to the same 36-count charge the EFCC entered against him.

"That following the conviction and sentence of the Applicant, the Applicant was incarcerated at the Kuje Correctional Centre where he served part of his term having spent a few days in the Ikoyi Correctional Centre".

He noted that the Supreme Court had in the judgement it delivered on May 8, 2020, on Appeal No: SC.62C/2019, which was filed by his co-Defendant, Udeogu, held that the trial of the Appellant at the trial Court was conducted without jurisdiction.

He argued that the apex court thereafter, only ordered the retrial of the Appellant (Udeogu), without reference to himself (Kalu).

"That there is no extant Ruling or Judgment of a competent Court in Nigeria ordering the retrial of the Applicant having regard to the fact that the Supreme Court excluded the Applicant from the explicit order for retrial arising from Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07 F. R. N. VS. Orji Uzor Kalu & 2 Ors", Kalu argued.

Consequently, he prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining FG, through the EFCC or its agents, from further trying, harassing and intimidating  him with respect to the charge or any other charge based on the same facts "as the Applicant need not suffer double jeopardy".

In a judgement he delivered on September 29, 2021, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the high court upheld Kalu's argument and barred the anti-graft agency from re-opening his case. 

Not happy with the development, FG filed the appeal that was struck out on Wednesday.

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