Senator Orji Uzor Kalu files a suit to regain his freedom, riding on the Supreme Court judgement setting his co-defendant free due to jurisdictional issues.
Convicted former Governor of Abia State and the Senate Chief Whip, Senator (Dr).Orji Uzor Kalu, has launched an epic battle to regain his freedom, hiring a 12-man team of lawyers, including six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, to secure his release from prison.
The Senator who is serving a 12-year jail term at the Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, for looting N7.65billion belonging to the Abia State Government during his eight years in office has filed a motion on notice at the Federal High Court in Lagos, asking it to set him free.
Senator Kalu was convicted on December 5, 2019 along with a former Abia State Director of Finance and Accounts during Kalu’s tenure, Udeh Udeogu, and Kalu’s firm, Slok Nigeria Ltd. They were found guilty on all 39 counts.
While Ude bagged 10- year imprisonment Kalu bagged 12 years. However, the Supreme Court after considering an appeal from Ude premised on the propriety of the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, in the case continuing with the case after his elevation to a higher bench. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the appeal and set him free on May 12 after declaring the trial a nullity for want of jurisdiction.
Kalu, in his motion on notice against the Federal Government, is seeking to set aside his trial and conviction.The motion, for Charge No FHC ABJ/CR 56/2007, was signed by Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN on behalf of 11 other lawyers. The case may have been assigned to Justice Mohammed Liman.
The lawyers charged with providing succour for Senator Kalu in their legal presentations are: Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN; Awa Kalu SAN; Chris Uche SAN; Dr. U. Olatoke, SAN; Chef H.O Afolabi, SAN; Sylvester Elema SAN; Ikoro N. A. Ikoro; Omosanya Popoola; C. Obidike; Nnamdi Awa Kalu; Vivien Udora and A S. Amire.
They kernel of their submission is that no legal basis exists for Kalu’s continued incarceration because the Supreme Court on May 8 declared his trial a nullity and freed his co-defendant Jones Udeh Udeogu.
Their argument is brought pursuant to Section 180 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Senator Kalu is seeking four reliefs from the Court:
“An order setting aside the judgment of this Honourable Court dated the 5 day of December, 2019, under the hand of Hon Justice M.B. Idris, JCA the same having been given without jurisdiction:
“An order setting aside the trial and conviction of the Applicant – The order of conviction having been made without jurisdiction
“An order setting aside the sentence passed on each of the counts as applicable to the Applicant in the 39-count charge in charge No: FHC ABJ/CR 56/2007 – the sentences having been imposed without jurisdiction.
“An order directing that the Applicant be released forthwith, from the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service Kuje Abuja FCT.”
Buttressing his argument, he further canvassed five grounds upon which the application was brought.
That he and his co-defendants “were tried and convicted at the Federal High Court by Justice Idris who in the course of trial was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
That the learned trial judge who conducted the trial has been held to have acted without jurisdiction in Suit No: SC.62C/2019 Udeh Jones Udeogu V Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Supreme Court decision dated the day of May. 2020
That the unassailable position of the law is that any judicial proceedings conducted without jurisdiction – no matter how well conducted – is a nullity
That the joint trial of the Applicant with the 2nd and 3rd Defendants/Respondents having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court, entities the Applicant to a release from his custodial sentence.
The conviction of Senator Uzor Kalu was widely celebrated as a major breakthrough in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. Analysts opined that though the wheel of justice may grind slowly, justice would eventually be served. The EFCC had vowed to follow up with the matter and ensure that justice is done.