Alleged N7.1bn fraud: Orji Uzo Kalu, firm cannot be retried – court
Federal High Court in Abuja has said former Abia Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu and his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited cannot be re-tried in relation to their alleged involvement in N7.1 billion fraud while Kalu served as Governor.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a judgment on Wednesday, held that since Kalu and his firm were not mentioned in the judgment of the Supreme Court, which voided their earlier conviction and sentencing and ordered a retrial, the judgment could not be applied to them.
Justice Ekwo held that it was only the former Account Director in Abia State Government House, Ude Jones Udeogu, named in the Supreme Court judgment, that could be re-tried as directed by the Supreme Court.
The judge rejected the prosecution’s argument that having benefited from the judgment of the Supreme Court, Kalu and his firm cannot claim the order for retrial could not apply to them.
Kalu was charged and tried with Slok and Udeogu for their alleged complicity in diverting the N7.1b from Abia State’s coffers.
They were convicted and, while Kalu and Udeogu were imprisoned for 12 and 10 years, Slok was wound up.
But, upon an appeal by Udeogu, the Supreme Court set aside their trial and conviction in a judgment on May 8, 2020, on the grounds that the trial judge, having been elevated, ought not to have continued to hear the case.
In the judgment given in an appeal, marked: SC/62C/2019 filed by Udeogu, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the case.
Although Kalu and his firm were not appellants in the appeal in respect of which the Supreme Court gave its judgment, they later tendered the judgment before the Federal High Court Lagos and the court applied the judgment to them.
When the prosecuting agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) applied for a retrial, Kalu and his firm sued to challenge the application the retrial order against and argued among others that a retrial would subject him to double jeopardy.
The judgment given on Wednesday was on the suits by Kalu and his firm.