Orji Kalu still in Kuje prison as fate hangs in the balance

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Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia state, is still in Kuje prison in the federal capital territory (FCT), TheCable understands.

source confirmed this on Monday, saying the supreme court has not sent the warrant of release to the prison authorities.

A federal high court in Abuja had sentenced Kalu, chief whip of the senate, to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.56 billion.

The assets of Slok Nigeria Limited, his company, were also forfeited to the federal government.

Ude Udeogu, a former director of finance and account at the Abia government house, was convicted alongside Kalu.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed the charges against them.

But displeased with the judgement, Udeogu filed an appeal to challenge the conviction.

His lawyers argued that Mohammed 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.

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The apex court, in a unanimous verdict on the appeal delivered by Ejembi Eko, declared that the conviction of the appellant was null and void.

Eko explained that the declaration was on the ground that Idris was already a judge of the court of appeal, as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.

He held that a justice of the court of appeal could not operate as a judge of the federal high court. The apex court, therefore, ordered the chief judge of the federal high court to reassign the case for trial.

It is now being feared that Kalu may not benefit from the judgment because he was a respondent, rather than the appellant, in the case before the apex court.

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The court had pronounce that “the case No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007, as it pertains or relates to the Appellant (Udeogu) 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 of the Federal High Court for trial de novo. Appeal allowed.”

But Awa Kalu, counsel to the former governor, told TheCable that the decision of the apex court is binding on all parties in the trial.

“It was a jurisdictional appeal and whatever was decided affected the three parties because it was a joint trial,” he said.

On why his client has not been released, he said: “Nobody has been released. It is better to wait and see if one person gets out and the other person doesn’t. All I can say for now is that nobody has been released. In Nigeria now we are getting ahead of ourselves.”

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Femi Akande, spokesman of the supreme court, could  not be reached for comments on why the warrant of release has not been sent to the prison as he neither answered calls nor replied a text message sent to him.

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