The Federal High Court Abuja, on Tuesday, adjourned the arraignment of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, charged for alleged N7.1 billion fraud, until June 7.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was to arraign Kalu, following a Supreme Court order that he and his co-defendants in the fraud charge be retried, having quashed the 12-year jail sentence handed to them by a Federal High Court in Lagos.When the matter was called, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Chile Okoronma, told the Court that there was a preliminary matter that needed to be resolved before the former Abia governor could be arraigned.
According to Okoronma, the prosecution has written a letter to the Chief Judge of the Court seeking a transfer of the matter to the Lagos division of the Court.“Looking at the charge sheet, no element of any of the offenses took place in Abuja.“We will be asking that the matter be adjourned “sine die” (indefinitely) while we await the response from the chief judge,” Okoronma submitted.
He held that proceeding with the matter in the Abuja division of the Court would be an exercise in futility.The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, however, refused to adjourn the matter indefinitely and insisted that counsel should take a specific date to return to Court.
He subsequently adjourned the matter until June 7 for a report on whether it should be transferred to Lagos or not.“Having rejected an application for an adjournment sine die, I hereby make an order adjourning this matter until June 7,” the judge ruled.Recall that Kalu was convicted by the Lagos division of the Court on Dec. 5, 2019, and sentenced to 12 years in prison for N7. 65 billion fraud.He was convicted for defrauding the government of Abia where he was a governor for eight years using his company, Slok Nigeria Limited.
However, the Supreme Court, in its judgement on May 8, 2020, quashed the conviction and ordered that the defendants be retried by the EFCC.In a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of justices, the Supreme Court nullified the entire proceedings that led to Kalu’s conviction.The apex court held that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, was already elevated to the Court of Appeal, as at the time he sat and delivered a judgement against Kalu and his co-defendants.
It noted that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at Dec. 5, 2019, when the former governor and the other defendants were found guilty of the charges against them.
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