A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State yesterday ordered the release of a former governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, from prison.
Justice Mohammad Liman gave the order after Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), moved an application for the release of the former governor in court.
Kalu was jailed for 12 years on December 5, 2019, after he was convicted of N7.1 billion fraud alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited, and a former director of finance at Abia State Government House, Mr. Jones Udeogu.
However, the Supreme Court, in a May 8, 2020 judgment, nullified the trial and conviction of Kalu and others on the grounds that the judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, who handled the case lacked jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court’s judgment followed an appeal by Udeogu contending that Justice Idris concluded the 12-year-old trial and gave judgment after he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal and had ceased to be a judge of the Federal High Court.
Yesterday, Fagbemi urged Justice Liman to release the ex-governor from prison custody, 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 (EFCC), Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the anti-graft agency would not, in principle, oppose Fagbemi’s application for Kalu’s release.
“But we are also urging the court that the order made by the Supreme Court for trial de novo (afresh) 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,” Jacobs added.