Alleged N7.1bn Fraud: Court Slates July 2 For Adoption In Ex-Gov Kalu’s Suit Against EFCC

Justice Imyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed July 2, 2021, for the adoption of all the processes filed in the suit by former Abia State governor and Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu.

The former governor had filed a suit challenging his retrial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged money laundering charges.

Justice Ekwo who gave the date on Wednesday, after the counsel in the suit, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN) for Senator Kalu, Oluwaleke Atolagbe for the EFCC, George Ukaegbu appeared for Udeh Jones (2nd respondent) and K. C Nwafor for Slok Nigeria Ltd (3rd respondent), respectively told the court that they have all filed and exchanged their processes.

Kalu is asking the court in his suit filed through his counsel, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), for an order prohibiting the EFCC from retrying him on the same alleged money laundering charges for which he had been tried, convicted and sentenced by justice M.B. Idris of the Lagos Division of the court.

He contended that it would amount to double jeopardy if he is subjected to a fresh trial on the same charge.

Justice Ekwo had earlier granted leave to Kalu to seek an order prohibiting the anti-graft agency from retrying him on charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2ors or any other charge based on the same facts de novo, there being no extant judgment and ruling of a competent court in Nigeria mandating same.

The court also gave an order prohibiting EFCC from retrying, harassing and intimidating Kalu with respect to the charge numbered, FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 or any other charge based on the same facts.

In his supporting affidavit deposed in support of his motion, Kalu chronicled the historical background of the trial from his first arraignment and re-arraignment in 2016 and 2017, before the Federal High Court in Abuja after the initial charges were amended by the EFCC.

He further narrated how his application to quash the charges was not granted by both the trial court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Kalu told the court that following an application by the EFCC to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the charge was transferred to the Lagos division of the court and was assigned to Justice M.B. Idris (now a Justice of the Court of Appeal).

That upon the transfer of the charge to Lagos, he bore the cost of movement of his entire legal team from Abuja to Lagos including the cost of accommodation up till judgment.

Senator Kalu disclosed that at the trial, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses and thereafter, closed its case, necessitating him together with other defendants to enter individually and respectively a no-case submission.

He stated how midway through the trial, Justice Idris was elevated to the Court of Appeal as a Justice of the Court and subsequently took the oath of office and subscribed to the Oath of Allegiance on June 22, 2018, and lost his position as a Judge of the Federal High Court.

The applicant also narrated how by a Fiat dated July 2, 2018, issued under the hand of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Idris was directed to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the trial, then part-heard in charge no: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007, between FRN vs Orji Kalu and 2 ors.

That in his judgment on December 5, 2019, Justice Idris convicted and sentenced him with respect to the extant charge.

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

That on May 8, 2020, the Supreme Court, in a judgment on appeal No: SC.62C/2019, Udeh Jones Udeogu vs FRN & 2 ors, held that the trial of the appellant at the trial court was conducted without jurisdiction and thereby ordered the retrial of the appellant (Udeh Jones Udeogu) without reference to him.

He argued that there is no extant ruling or judgment of a competent court in Nigeria ordering his trial having regard to the fact that the Supreme Court excluded him from the explicit order for retrial arising from charge No: FHC/ABJ/56/2007.

That 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 and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence having the same ingredients as that offence serves upon the order of a competent court.

That his trial, having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court in its judgment of May 8, 2020, and without more cannot entitle the EFCC to institute the same charge against him.

EFCC, in a response to the suit, asked the court to dismiss it on the ground that the planned re-trial would not amount to a case of double jeopardy.

The commission in its response filed on Wednesday argued that the re-trial is in compliance with the order of the Supreme Court which held that the whole trial was a nullity having been conducted without jurisdiction.

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