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The Federal High Court in Abuja has temporarily halted the Federal Government from retrying the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, on the ₦7.1billion money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) earlier preferred against him.
In a judgement delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court hinged the decision on the postulation that the Supreme Court did not in the verdict it gave on May 8, 2020, order the retrial of either Kalu or his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited.
Justice Ekwo held that the Supreme Court only ordered the retrial of former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, who was the appellant before it.
Consequently, Justice Ekwo upheld a suit that Kalu filed to challenge the legal propriety of his planned re-arraignment by the EFCC.
In the application filed through his lawyers led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Awa Kalu, the former governor argued that allowing the EFCC to try him afresh on the charge and same facts upon which he was earlier convicted and sentenced on December 5, 2019, would occasion him to suffer a ‘double jeopardy’.
He said, “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 offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence having the same ingredients as that offence, save upon the order or a competent Court.”
Giving reasons why his trial should not commence de-novo (afresh), Kalu, said he was convicted and sentenced by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos with respect to the charge against him.
Justice Idris had sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment in his judgement delivered on December 5, 2019.
However, the Supreme Court nullified the judgement in May 2020 following an appeal by Kalu.
In a unanimous verdict on the appeal delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court declared the conviction null and void.
Justice Eko explained that the declaration was on the ground that Justice Mohammed Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal at the time he delivered the judgement.
He held that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.
Kalu, who was governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007, is currently the Chief Whip of the Senate.
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