Orji Kalu Remains in Jail as Co-convict Gets Warrant of Release

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Davidson Iriekpen

The Federal High Court in Lagos has issued a warrant of release for a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House, Mr. Ude Udeogu, who was convicted for fraud alongside former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu.

The warrant was issued yesterday for Udeogu to be released from Kuje prison in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

However, Kalu remains in prison without a warrant of release, with many saying he cannot directly benefit from the May 8 judgment of the Supreme Court.

After the Supreme Court had last Friday delivered the judgment, the media had erroneously reported that Kalu’s 12-year conviction had been quashed.

However, it has long been observed that Udeogu was the only appellant in the case and the Supreme Court was specific in its pronouncements.

The court had pronounced that “the case No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007, as it pertains or relates to the appellant (Udeogu) as the 2nd defendant at the trial court, is hereby remitted to the Chief Judge of Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge of the Federal High Court for trial de novo. Appeal allowed.”

Kalu, who has appealed his own conviction up to the apex court, will get his own judgment separately — but it is not expected to be different from Udeogu’s.

The Federal High Court in Lagos had sentenced Kalu, Chief Whip of the Senate, to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.56 billion.

The assets of Slok Nigeria Limited, his company, were also forfeited to the federal government.

Udeogu was also convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the charges against them.

But displeased with the judgment, Udeogu filed an appeal to challenge the conviction.

His lawyers argued that Justice Mohammed Idris who handed down the ruling, lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case because he had been elevated to the appeal court at the time he sentenced them to prison.

The apex court, in a unanimous verdict on the appeal delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, declared that the conviction of the appellant was null and void.

Justice Eko explained that the declaration was on the ground that Justice Idris was already a judge of the court of appeal, as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.

He held that a judge of the Court of Appeal could not operate as a judge of the federal high court.

The apex court, therefore, ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case for trial.