By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, barred the Federal Government from retrying the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, based on the N7.1billion money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, earlier preferred against him.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the Supreme Court did not in the verdict it gave on May 8, 2020, order the retrial of either Kalu or his his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited.
Justice Ekwo held that the Supreme Court only ordered the retrial of former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, who was the Appellant before it.
Consequently, he upheld a suit Kalu filed to challenge the legal propriety of his planned re-arraingment by the EFCC.
Kalu had in the Application he filed through his team of lawyers let by Chief Awa Kalu, SAN, argued that allowing the EFCC to try him afresh on the charge and same facts upon which he was earlier convicted and sentenced on December 5, 2019, would occasion him to suffer a “double jeopardy”.
According to him, “The unassailable position of the law is that no person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted, shall again be tried for that offence having the same ingredients as that offence, save upon the order or a competent Court.
“The trial of the Applicant having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court in its judgment dated the 8th day of May, 2020 and without more, cannot entitle the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to institute the same charge against the Applicant”.
Canvassing reasons why his trial should not commence de-novo (afresh), Kalu, said he was convicted and sentenced by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos with respect to the extant charge against him.
“That following the conviction and sentence of the Applicant, the Applicant was incarcerated at the Kuje Correctional Centre where he served part of his term having spent a few days in the Ikoyi Correctional Centre”.
He noted that the Supreme Court had in the judgement it delivered on May 8, 2020, on Appeal No: SC.62C/2019, which was filed by his co-Defendant, Udeogu, held that the trial of the Appellant at the trial Court was conducted without jurisdiction.
He argued that the apex court thereafter, only ordered the retrial of the Appellant (Udeogu), without reference to himself (Kalu).
“That there is no extant Ruling or Judgment of a competent Court in Nigeria ordering the retrial of the Applicant having regard to the fact that the Supreme Court excluded the Applicant from the explicit order for retrial arising from Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07 F. R. N. VS. Orji Uzor Kalu & 2 Ors”, Kalu argued.
Consequently, he prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining FG, through the EFCC or its agents, from further trying, harassing and intimidating him with respect to the charge or any other charge based on the same facts “as the Applicant need not suffer double jeopardy”.