Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will today arraign Senate Chief Whip Orji Uzor Kalu before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The senator will be docked before Justice Inyang Ekwo on N7.1 billion money launderingrelated charges. Chief Kalu, who governed Abia State from 1999 to 2007, was earlier found guilty and sentenced to a 12-year jail term by the Lagos division of the court.
He was convicted alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and a former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, for allegedly stealing about N7.1 billion from the state treasury.
However, the Supreme Court on May 8, 2020, quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial of the defendants by the EFCC.
In a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of justices, the Supreme Court nullified the entire proceedings that led to Sen. 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 judgement against the defendants.
The apex court further noted that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at December 5, 2019, the day the senator and his co-defendants were found guilty of the money laundering charges against them.
According to the Supreme Court, Justice Idris having been elevated to the Court of Appeal lacked the powers to return to sit as a high court judge.
It also held that the fiat that was issued to him by the Court of Appeal president pursuant to Section 396 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, was unconstitutional.
In its lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the apex court held that the president of the Court of Appeal acted beyond her powers when she authorized the trial judge to return to the high court to deliver the pending judgement.
It averred that the Court of Appeal Ppresident by issuing a letter to Justice Idris to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the trial of Sen. Kalu and his co-defendants had usurped the powers of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint judges for both superior courts, as well as the power of chief judge of the high court to assign cases to judges under him.
Consequently, the apex court held that since Justice Idris returned to the trial court based on an unconstitutional directive by the Court of Appeal president, the judgement and subsequent conviction of the defendants amounted to a nullity.
It therefore, ordered that the charge in suit number FHC/ABJ/CR/26/2017, which the EFCC entered against Sen. Kalu and his co-defendants should be remitted back to chief judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment to any other judge for the trial to commence de-novo (afresh).
The judgement followed an appeal by Sen. Kalu’s firm, Slok Nigeria Limited lodged to challenge the jurisdiction of the high court that tried the matter and found the defendants guilty.
Though the initial trial took place in Lagos, the Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice John Tsoho has however, transferred the case-file to Abuja for retrial.