A judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Inyang Ekwo, has stopped the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from retrying a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who was earlier convicted of N7.1billion fraud.
Mr Kalu, a serving senator, was already serving a 12-year jail term for the offences when the Supreme Court on May 8, 2020 nullified the proceedings leading to his and his co-defendants’ conviction.
The Supreme Court’s judgment delivered on an appeal by Mr Kalu’s co-defendant, Ude Udeogu, had ordered a retrial at the Federal High Court.
Mr Orji Kalu got out of prison based on the apex court’s judgement, but quickly filed an application before the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop his retrial.
Ruling on the application on Wednesday, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, granted the ex-governor’s request.
The judge held that the apex court’s verdict did not order the retrial of Mr Kalu.
However, the court ordered the anti-graft agency to retry Mr Udeogu, a former director of finance and accounts with the Abia State Government.
The judgement brings back to mind the contradiction which the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, pointed in Mr Kalu’s argument during the hearing of the ex-governor’s application in May.
“The plaintiff (Orji Kalu) and his co-defendant are enjoying the benefit of the Supreme Court judgement, but they are avoiding the burden that comes with it.
“The Supreme Court ordered that plaintiff and his co-defendant be tried denovo (afresh). So, there must be a conviction or an acquittal by a competent court,” Mr Jacobs had said.
Mr Kalu was tried based on amended 39 counts in which they were accused of stealing and mismanaging funds belonging to Abia State during his days as governor between 1999 and 2007.’
He was tried alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Mr Kalu’s tenure as governor.
In December 2019, Mohammed Idris, then a judge of the Federal High Court in Lagos, (now a Justice of the Court of Appeal), on December 5, 2019, sentenced Mr Kalu, to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion fraud.
The judge sentenced his co-defendant, Udeh Udeogu, to 10 years in jail for diverting Abia State’s funds to the tune of N7.1 billion.
However, citing technical grounds, the Supreme Court on May 8, 2020, set side the conviction and sentence, and ordered that the defendants be tried afresh.
Before they could be re-arraigned, however, Mr Kalu, the incumbent Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, filed an application to stop his retrial.
More details later…