The trial of a former Abia State governor and Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu, will resume at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos today.
The trial which had been on for over 13 years was given a fresh fiat by President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, to enable him to return to the court to conclude the case.
Justice Idris was elevated from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal in June 2018. But he continued to hear the case after the President of the Court of Appeal initially granted a fiat for him to do so.
The fiat was granted at the instance of Kalu’s Lawyer, Professor Awa Kalu (SAN) who activated Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, in order to prevent the case from being transferred to another judge to start afresh.
That fiat expired in November 2018.
A copy of a Fresh Fiat sighted by our Judiciary Correspondent, Shola Soyele stated that the trial will now commence on July 22 and will continue from day to day until the trial is concluded.
Kalu is standing trial alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and a company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N7.6billion.
On July 31, 2018, Justice Idris dismissed the ‘no-case submissions’ made by Orji Kalu and the other defendants and ordered them to open their defence.
But rather than open their defence, Kalu sought a six-week adjournment to embark on a trip to Germany to have surgery for an undisclosed ailment.
The defendants later challenged the jurisdiction of the judge to hear the case, arguing that he was no longer a judge of the high court.
They also filed an application seeking a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of their appeals.
Justice Idris dismissed both.
When Kanu did not subsequently make himself available for his trial, Justice Idris revoked his bail.
The judge also ordered him to submit himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return to the country.
On January 23, 2019, when the case last came up in court, the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), complained about Kalu’s repeated absence from court, alleging that the former governor, then a senator-elect, was taking the court for a ride. The counsel also noted that despite the court’s order, Kanu did not turn himself into the EFCC.
“He (Kalu) kept on campaigning for his senatorial ambition, slapping the court in the face; his attitude is unbecoming,” Jacobs said while urging Justice Idris to continue the hearing in Kalu’s absence.
But in response, Justice Idris said he could not proceed with the case as a second fiat given to him by the Appeal Court President had expired in November 2018.