A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday said a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited, could not be retried in relation to their alleged involvement in N7.1bn fraud while Kalu served as governor.
Justice Inyang Ekwo held that since Kalu and his firm were not mentioned in the judgment of the Supreme Court, which voided their earlier conviction and sentencing, and ordered a retrial, the judgment could not be applied to them.
He held that it was only the former Account Director in Abia State Government House, Ude Udeogu, named in the Supreme Court judgment that could be re-tried as directed by the apex court.
The judge rejected the argument of the prosecution that having benefited from the judgment of the Supreme Court, Kalu and his firm could not claim that the order for retrial could not apply to them.
Recall that Kalu was tried along with with Slok and Udeogu for their alleged complicity in diverting the N7.1bn from Abia State’s coffers.
They were convicted and, while Kalu and Udeogu were imprisoned for 12 and 10 years, Slok was wound up.
But, upon an appeal by Udeogu, the Supreme Court set aside their trial and conviction in a judgment on May 8, 2020, on the grounds that the trial judge, having been elevated, ought not to have continued to hear the case.
The Supreme Court subsequently ordered a retrial in the case.
Although Kalu and his firm were not appellants in the appeal in respect of which the Supreme Court gave its judgment, they later tendered the judgment before the Federal High Court Lagos and the court applied the judgment to them.
When the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission applied for a retrial, Kalu and his firm went to court to challenge the application for the retrial and argued among others that a retrial would subject him to double jeopardy.
Justice Ekwo on Wednesday held, “The judgement of the Supreme Court on this matter is final. On the whole, the fact that there is no order for retrial of the applicant ( Kalu) in the judgement of the Supreme Court, or by the virtue of Section 36 (9) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, or Section 283 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, has allowed prayer two of the applicant to succeed.
“Going by the facts and circumstances of this case, I find that the case of the applicant (Kalu) has succeeded.
“The chequered history of the case is well known. The order of prohibition is hereby made, prohibiting the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and agents, officers, servants, persons or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from retrying the applicant in charge number: FHC/ABJ/56/2007 or any other charge based on the same facts de novo (afresh). There has been no extant judgement or ruling of a competent in Nigeria mandating same. That is the judgement of the court.”
Meanwhile, the EFCC, in a late statement said it would appeal the court ruling.
In statement titled, ‘EFCC to appeal court ruling on Orji Kalu’s retrial,’ the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren said,” EFCC believes the judge erred in this ruling as section 36(9) of the 1999 Constitution is applicable only where the previous judgment was by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
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