The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday ordered the release of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, from prison.
Kalu was jailed for 12 years on December 5, 2019, after he was convicted of N7.1bn fraud alongside his firm, Slot Nigeria Limited, and a former Director of Finance at the Abia State Government House, 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 who handled the case lacked jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court’s judgment followed an appeal by Udeogu, contending that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, concluded the 12-year-old trial and gave judgment after he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal and ceased to be a judge of the Federal High Court.
On Tuesday, Kalu’s counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), urged Justice Mohammed Liman to the release of 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, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), the anti-graft agency would not, in principle, oppose Fagbemi’s application for Kalu’s release from prison.
“But we are also urging the court that the order made by the Supreme Court for trial de novo 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.