Alleged N7.1b fraud: Court fixes date for Uzor Kalu’s retrial

The Federal High Court, Abuja on Wednesday fixed July 2 for adoption of all processes filed by parties in a suit by former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, seeking to stop his retrial.

The court had in February granted Kalu leave to challenge the legality of the retrial.

At the resumed hearing on Wednesday, his counsel, Professor Awa Kalu, SAN, told the court that the respondents had served on him their counter affidavits.

Responding, counsel to the 1st respondent (EFCC), Oluwaleke Atolagbe, the second respondent, Mr George Ukaegbu, and the third respondent, Mr  K.C Nwufor, all admitted having filed and exchanged processes. In a short ruling, the judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, said since all parties had “joined issues”, the court had taken over control of the case.

Ekwo adjourned the matter until July 2 for adoption.

Kalu, a serving senator representing Abia North, is seeking an order of the court prohibiting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from retrying him on the same alleged N7.1 billion money laundering charge against him.

He contended that having been tried once by the EFCC, convicted and sentenced in the same charge, FHC/ABJ/CR/56/ 2007, it would amount to double jeopardy for him to be subjected to a fresh trial on the same charge.

The former governor had also applied for an order prohibiting the EFCC from retrying, harassing and intimidating him with respect to the said charge or any other charge based on same facts as he needs not suffer double jeopardy.

Kalu was earlier found guilty and handed a 12-year jail term by the Lagos Division of the court.

The trial court convicted the former governor alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited, and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, for alleged pilfering of N7.1 billion from the state treasury.

However, the Supreme Court, in its judgement on May 8 quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial of the defendants by the EFCC.

In a unanimous decision by a seven-member panel of Justices, the Supreme Court, nullified the entire proceedings that led to Kalu’s conviction, stressing that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, was already elevated to the Court of Appeal as at the time he sat and delivered a judgement against the defendants.

It noted that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at December 5, 2019, the day the former governor 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.

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