It has emerged that former Governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, might have to remain in Kuje prison in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where he was clamped on a 12-year jail term since April last year by a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Unlike Ude Udeogu, the former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House, in his government, with whom he was sentenced by Justice Mohammed Idris, of the Federal High Court in Lagos, for fraud to the tune of N7.56 billion, Kalu has not been released from prison because the Supreme Court has not sent the warrant of release to the prison authorities.
Ude Udeogu, who was slammed with a 10-year sentenced, over the case brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was the one who challenged the conviction on appeal and finally got the judgement at the apex court and not the former governor, according to reports.
Udeagu’s contention was that Idris, the judge who handed down the ruling, lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case because he had been elevated to the appeal court at the time he sentenced them to prison, which the seven-man panel of the Supreme Court agreed with in the judgement read by Justice Ejembi Eko.
In declaring the conviction of Udeagu was null and void, the apex court explained that since Idris was already a judge of the court of appeal, he was no longer qualified to sit at the the lower court and having done so, his pronouncement of guilt went to nothing and therefore, ordered the chief judge of the federal high court to reassign the case for trial.
Many had believed that Kalu also benefitted from the landmark judgement with the media suffused with the news of the freedom of the former governor was a free man and others suggesting that he was actually released on the same day.
However, legal minds are saying that Kalu may have to approach the Court of Appeal, where he has a pending matter, to ask for his release following the dismissal of the judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos by the Supreme Court.
According to a copy of the judgment obtained, the Supreme Court clearly stated that the judgment relates only to the Appellant.
The lead judgment delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko reads in part: “I hereby allow this appeal. Section 386(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ( ACJA), 2015 is in my view, an unnecessarily gratuitous legislative interference with, intrusion into or an outright usurpation of the appointing powers of the Executive arm consigned specifically to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the Constitution in Sections 250(1) and 238(2) thereof.
“The “FlAT/permission” issued on 2nd July, 2018, by the President, Court of Appeal to the Honourable, Justice M.. B. ldris, JCA to proceed to the Federal High Court, Lagos and conclude the part-heard .criminal matter: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07-, notwithstanding the fact that the Honourable, Justice M. B. Idris, JCA, upon his elevation to the Court of Appeal had ceased, not only to be a judge of the Federal High Court but also to have and exercise the powers and jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, is ultra vires Sections 1(2)(a) and 19(3) and (4) of the Federal High Court Act, the same being an outright usurpation of the powers of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
“The said FIAT/Permission, issued without any lawful or constitutional authority and being a nullity, is hereby set aside. AII steps, including actions, proceedings and decisions and orders issued, taken and/or conducted pursuant to the said FIAT/Permission dated 2nd July, 2018 as they pertain to and relate to the Appellant(Ude) herein are hereby set aside. The judgment of the Court of Appea\ No. ‘CA/L/1064C/2018, delivered on 24th April 2019, particularly in respect of the Appellant and as it affected him is hereby set aside.
“The case No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 as it pertains or relates to the Appellant as the 2nd Defendant at the trial court, is hereby remitted to the Chief Judge of Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge if the Federal High Court for trial de novo. Appeal allowed. ”
As at press time, the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Correctional Service Mr. Jaafar Ahmed has refused to release Kalu.
A top source said:” Kalu is still at our Correctional Centre in Kuje because there us no enrolled order from the Supreme Court to release him.
“There are no words from the Supreme Court but the judgment was clear on Ude Udeogu.
“We will not release him until there is an order from a competent court.”