The Federal Government has asked the Court of Appeal in Abuja, to order a fresh trial in an alleged N7.1billion laundering charge against the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
The government is asking the appellate court to set aside the September 29 judgement of the Federal High Court, 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), also wants the Appeal Court to order Senator Kalu and his company, to submit themselves for retrial, in line with the order of the Supreme Court in its May 8, 2020 judgement, voiding the earlier trial and conviction of Kalu and two others, and ordering a retrial.
The requests were contained in two notices of appeal, filed by a lawyer to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, against the two judgements delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Federal High Court in Abuja had earlier in September barred the Federal Government from retrying the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, on the N7.1billion money laundering charge which the EFCC earlier preferred against him.
In a judgement 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.
Justice Ekwo held that the Supreme Court only ordered the retrial of former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, who was the appellant before it.
In reaction, the EFCC said it will appeal this judgement.
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.
The Supreme Court had ordered a retrial at the Federal High Court.
But Kalu who profited from the ruling to secure release from the Kuje Correctional Centre filed an application before the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop his retrial.
Earlier today, Justice Ekwo had 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 offence upon which he has been convicted”.
The EFCC in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, however, believes the judge erred in this ruling as it says Section 36(9) of the 1999 Constitution is applicable only where the previous judgment was by a court of competent jurisdiction.
In this case, the apex court had in the said judgment, described the process that led to the conviction of Kalu as a nullity because the judge came from the Court of Appeal to decide the matter.
The Commission further averred that the court erred in its ruling that the Supreme Court did not order the retrial of Kalu; that 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.