The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, fixed July 2 for the adoption of all the processes in the suit by former Abia State Governor and Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, challenging his retrial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged money laundering charges.
The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, fixed the date after parties in the matter told him that they had all filed and exchanged their respective processes. In the matter, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN) is representing Kalu, Oluwaleke Atolagbe is representing the EFCC, George Ukaegbu appeared for Udeh Jones (2nd respondent) and K. C Nwafor for Slok Nigeria Ltd (3rd respondent). Kalu, in the suit, is asking the court for an order prohibiting the EFCC from retrying him on the same alleged money laundering charges.
He submitted that having been tried, convicted and sentenced on the same charges, FHC/ABJ/ CR/56/ 2007, by the court under Justice M.B. Idris, it would amount to double jeopardy if he is subjected to a fresh trial on the same charges. The court had earlier granted leave to Kalu to seek an order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), her officers, servants, others, agents, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 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, there being no extant judgment and ruling of a competent court in Nigeria mandating the same.
The court also gave an order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), her officers, servants, others, agents, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from retrying, harassing and intimidating him with respect to the charge as concerns charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2 ors or any other charge based on same facts as he need not suffer double jeopardy. However, in the supporting affidavit deposed in support of his motion, Kalu chronicled the historical background of the trial from his first arraignment and re-arraignment in 2016 and 2017, before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court after the initial charges were amended by the EFCC.
He further narrated how his application to quash the charges was not granted by both the trial court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Kalu told the court that following an application by the EFCC, to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the charge was transferred to the Lagos division of the court and was assigned to Justice M.B. Idris (now a Justice of the Court of Appeal). Upon the transfer of the charge to Lagos, he bore the cost of movement of his entire legal team from Abuja to Lagos including the cost of accommodation up till judgment. Senator Kalu disclosed that at the trial, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses and thereafter, closed its case, necessitating him together with other defendants to enter individually and respectively a no case submission.
He stated how midway through the trial, Justice Idris was elevated to the Court of Appeal as a Justice of the Court and subsequently took the oath of office and subscribed to the oath of Allegiance on June 22, 2018 and lost his position as a Judge of the Federal High Court. The applicant also narrated how by a Fiat dated July 2, 2018, issued under the hand of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Idris was directed to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the trial, then part-heard in charge no: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007, between FRN vs Orji Kalu and 2 ors. Kalu added that in his judgment on December 5, 2019, Justice Idris convicted and sentenced him with respect to the extant charge.