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‘N7.1bn fraud’: Court fixes date for judgment on Orji Kalu’s suit against retrial

Author:
Jesupemi Are

A federal high court in Abuja has fixed September 20 to deliver judgment on the suit by Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia state, challenging his retrial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on money laundering charges.

The EFCC had prosecuted Kalu alongside Ude Udeogu, a former director of finance and accounts with the Abia state government, and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on 39 counts of fraud involving N7.1 billion at a federal high court in Lagos.

Mohammed Idris, who is now a justice of the court of appeal, had at the end of the trial, sentenced Kalu to 12 years’ imprisonment while Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The third defendant, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Nigerian government.

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But on May 8, 2020, the supreme court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-member panel, nullified Kalu’s conviction and ordered a retrial.

The apex court ruled and held that the trial was a nullity on the grounds that Idris, the trial judge, had been elevated to the court of appeal and no longer a judge of the federal high court as of the time he concluded the trial and handed down his verdict.

When the suit came up before Inyang Ekwo on Friday, lawyers representing all parties respectively adopted the processes they had filed and exchanged.

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Rotimi Jacob, prosecuting counsel, accused the applicant of trying to take advantage of the verdict by the supreme court and avoid the burden that comes with it.

He said the application by Kalu is a strange one as it is filing a case to terminate a case.

He objected to the application which he termed “illegal” and asked the judge to dismiss it.

In his argument, Awa Kalu, Kalu’s counsel, said his client had stood trial for 12 years, was convicted and was in prison for five months.

Kalu said the application is anchored on the fact that he was tried and convicted.

He said what the federal government (1st respondent) is trying to do is to pretend like nothing happened for 12 years.

He said if the case of double jeopardy is in doubt, the judge should take a look at the supreme court judgment.

Kalu, therefore, asked the court to grant the application.

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Ekwo commended all the lawyers for their arguments and adjourned the case till September 20, 2021 for judgment.

He, however, said the date is tentative which means the judgment can be given earlier if ready before the said date.

Abdulrasheed Bawa, the EFCC chairman, was seen conferring with Jacobs shortly after the suit was adjourned.

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