The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday fixed April 20 for hearing in the suit by former Abia State Governor and Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, seeking to stop his retrial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on same alleged money laundering charges.
The adjournment was predicated on the fact that the EFCC, which is listed as the first defendant in the suit, was not properly served with the originating summons. When the matter was called, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who announced his appearance for the commission, drew the attention of the court to the fact that the originating summons was served on his chambers instead of the EFCC.
He told Justice Inyang Ekwo that he was yet to be briefed by the EFCC as its counsel and it would amount to professional misconduct to accept processes on the matter.
Responding, counsel to Kalu, Awa Kalu (SAN) said he has no problem serving the EFCC with the originating summons. Both Chief Chris Uche (SAN) and George Ukeagbu who appeared for third and second defendants said they were properly served.
However, Justice Ekwo observed that both the first and third defendants were yet to file their reply briefs in the suit. He, accordingly, adjourned the case to April 20 for hearing and directed the applicant to serve the EFCC within seven days. The court had, on February 8, 2021, granted leave to Senator Kalu to challenge his retrial by the EFCC on the same charges upon which he was sentenced and convicted.
Justice Ekwo, thereafter, ordered that the planned re-arraignment of the politician in the alleged N7.1 billion money laundering charges be put on hold until the resolution of the legal questions raised against his retrial.
In a motion exparte which was moved and argued by his counsel, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), Senator Kalu asked for an order of court prohibiting the EFCC from retrying him on same alleged money laundering charges against him.
He contended that having been tried, convicted and sentenced on same charge FHC/ABJ/CR/56/ 2007 by Justice M.B. Idris, it will amount to double jeopardy if he is subjected to a fresh trial on same charge.
Justice Ekwo, in his ruling, granted leave to Kalu to seek an order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), from retrying him on charge No. FHC/ ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2 ors or any other charge based on the same facts de novo.
The court further ordered that the leave should operate as a stay of proceedings until the determination of the application.
Justice Ekwo, in his ruling, held that the applicant, who is fully clothed with the locus standi, has placed sufficient materials in his supporting affidavits to warrant the court to exercise its discretion in his favour.