*Orji Kalu, the embattled former Abia State governor
There was big surprise in Nigeria at the weekend as the Supreme Court of Nigeria quashed the judgement that convicted and sentenced a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years imprisonment. It is not the first time Nigeria’s apex court is given a verdict that surprise the whole country.
In a recent case involving Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was voted massively by the people of Imo State and was sworn in as governor, it was the same Supreme Court that quashed the election. Rather than order a fresh election in the state, the court awarded the election to Senator Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressive Congress (APC) who came distant fourth during the Imo State governorship election in 2019.
When placed along the line of the statement credited to the Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, then Nigerians do not need to be surprised what the Supreme Court is doing. During the days of the campaign leading to the elections, Oshiomhole had boasted that ‘…even if one was a thief, once the politician leaves his party and joined the APC, all his sins would be written off…”
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of Justices led by Justice Amina Augie, held that the Federal High Court in Lagos acted without jurisdiction when it convicted Kalu, his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu. The court held that trial Justice Mohammed Liman was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at the time he sat and delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants for allegedly stealing about N7.1billion from Abia state treasury.
According to the Supreme Court, Justice Liman, having been elevated to the Court of Appeal before then, lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge. It 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 was unconstitutional. Consequently, the apex court vacated the judgement that convicted the defendants and ordered fresh trial of the defendants.
However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the Nigerian law enforcement agency that investigated the financial crimes of Orji Uzor Kalu and how he plundered monies meant for the development of Abia State while he was governor while expressing surprise at the verdict of the Supreme Court however said they are ready to head back to the lower court to start the case afresh.