The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) to release Mr Orji Uzor Kalu from its custodial centre.
Mr Kalu, a former governor of the South-east state of Abia, who is presently the Chief Whip of the Senate was incarcerated for twelve years on December 5, 2019 after a drawn-out case instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) resulted in a conviction. Mr Kalu was convicted alongside his firm Slok Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogu, a former Director of Finance at the Abia State Government House.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgement delivered on May 8, 2020, nullified the trial and conviction of Jones Udeogu on the grounds that the judge who handled the case lacked jurisdiction. The apex court’s ruling followed an appeal by Udeogu, contending that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, concluded the 12-year-old trial and gave judgment after he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal and ceased to be a judge of the Federal High Court. However, the NCS had refused to release Mr Kalu from its custody since the ruling did not expressly refer to Mr Kalu’s conviction.
On Tuesday, Kalu’s counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), urged Justice Mohammed Liman to the release of the ex-governor from the custody of the NCS, based on the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Udeogu’s appeal.
“Our application is brought pursuant to Section 159 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. This is a fallout of the Supreme Court decision delivered on the 8th of May,” Fagbemi said.
In response, the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the anti-graft agency would not, in principle, oppose Fagbemi’s application for Kalu’s release from prison but he added: “We are also urging the court that the order made by the Supreme Court for trial de novo should be complied with by all parties; so that Your Lordship will give us a date when arraignment will be done. We want the trial to go on; losing more time will be dangerous for us.”