The Federal High Court in Abuja has barred the Federal Government from retrying the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, on the N7.1billion money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) earlier preferred against him.
In a judgement delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court held that the Supreme Court did not in the verdict it gave on May 8, 2020, order the retrial of either Kalu or 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, Justice Ekwo upheld a suit that Kalu filed to challenge the legal propriety of his planned re-arraignment by the EFCC.
In the application filed through his lawyers led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Awa Kalu, the former governor 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”.
He said, “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.”
Giving 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 charge against him.
Justice Idris had sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment in his judgement delivered on December 5, 2019.
He gave insight into ongoing prosecutions, challenges, and increasing cases of financial crimes since his assumption into office 100 days ago.
He also clarified reports accredited to him concerning the involvement of a Minister in the laundering of about $37 million into real estate. He disclosed that he simply made reference to an old case involving a former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Madueke.
The EFCC Chairman further disclosed that since his first 100 days in office, the agency has been working on a number of proactive strategies including a special control unit against money laundering, established particularly to address non-designated financial institutions including car dealers, real estate, jewellery dealers, among others.
Bawa said he is confident that when the unit is fully established, corruption will significantly decline in the country.
He then added that the agency is equally working towards the development of a biometric ownership database to address money laundering.
According to him, most proceeds of crime are laundered through real estate and have become a huge challenge. He gives examples of property acquired especially in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt where billions of naira are laundered through this means.
He, however, declined to disclose actual perpetrators or the properties involved.
He revealed that since his assumption, a number of recoveries have been made including N6billion, $161million, £13,000 pounds, €1,730 among others.
Internet fraudsters numbering 1,502 have also been apprehended between January to June 2021and efforts are underway to file about 800 of them. A hundred cases will be filed in court.
Amid the myriads of security challenges in the country, the Senate Minority Leader and senator representing Abia North in the National Assembly, Orji Uzor Kalu, has raised an alarm over an attempt at sabotaging the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking during an interview on Channels Television on Monday said the Federal Government is not responding as it should.
Kalu, who was also ex-governor of Abia State, called on the Federal Government to collaborate more with governors in nipping in the bud the various security challenges in the country.
“Anywhere you have no police to police the society, it means the society is failed because the major job of a government is to protect lives and properties of the citizens. Once that kind of aspect fails, we are in trouble,” he said.
“I believe there is sabotage to the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. A lot of sabotage, things are on duty to sabotage him, the society.
“The Federal Government should cooperate with the state governments. We have done well as a party in many areas but security is key and we need to address this issue, come together.”
On the way forward, he asked President Buhari to tackle the numerous security challenges in the country to convey a security summit with the service chiefs, governors, selected ex-governors and former military personnel.
Hearing in the suit by former Governor of Abia State and Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Kalu seeking to stop his retrial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on same alleged money laundering charges has been adjourned to April 20.
The adjournment is predicated on the fact the EFCC, which is listed as the first defendant in the suit, was not properly served with the originating summons.
At the resumed hearing of the suit, Rotimi Jacobs who announced appearance for the Commission on protest drew the attention of the court to the fact that the originating summons was served on his chambers instead of the EFCC.
He told Justice Inyang Ekwo that he was yet to be briefed by the anti-graft agency as its counsel and it would amount to professional misconduct to accept processes on the matter.
In his response, Professor Awa Kalu who appeared for Senator Kalu said he has no problem serving the EFCC with the originating summons.
Justice Ekwo accordingly adjourned the case to April 20 for hearing and directed the applicant to serve the EFCC within seven days.
The court had on February 8, 2021, granted leave to Senator Kalu to challenge his retrial by the EFCC on the same charges upon which he was sentenced and convicted.
Justice Inyang Ekwo thereafter, ordered that the planned re-arraignment of Senator Kalu in the alleged ₦7.1billion money-laundering charges be put on hold until the resolution of the legal questions raised against his retrial.
In a motion exparte argued by his counsel, Senator Kalu asked for an order of Court prohibiting the EFCC from retrying him on the same alleged money laundering charges against him.
He contended that having been tried, convicted and sentenced the on same charges a Federal High court presided over by Justice M.B. Idris, it will amount to double jeopardy if he is subjected to a fresh trial on the same charges.
Justice Ekwo in his ruling, granted leave to Senator Kalu to seek an order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), her officers, servants, others, agents, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from retrying him on charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2 ors or any other charge based on the same facts de novo, there being no extant judgment and ruling of a competent court in Nigeria mandating same.
An order prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC (her agent), her officers, servants, others, agents, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from retrying, harassing and intimidating him with respect to the charge as it concerns charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between FRN vs Orji Kalu & 2 ors or any other charge based on same facts as he need not suffer double jeopardy.
The court further ordered that the leave should operate as a stay of proceedings until the determination of the application.
Justice Ekwo in his ruling held that the applicant who is fully clothed with the locus standi has placed sufficient materials in his supporting affidavits to warrant the court to exercise its discretion in his favor.
“Leave is at the discretion of the court under order 34(2) of the Federal High Court. In granting leave, there must be sufficient material fact placed before the court by the applicant to enable it to exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously.
“The averments in the affidavit in support of the motion are about the applicant who has demonstrated sufficient interest to cloth him with a locus standi to bring the action.
“By section 34 (9) of the constitution, 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 of a competent court.”
In his supporting affidavit deposed in support of his motion, Senator Kalu chronicled the historical background of the trial from his first arraignment and re-arraignment in 2016 and 2017, before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court after the initial charges were amended by the EFCC.
He further narrated how his application to quash the charges was not granted by both the trial court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Kalu told the court that following an application by the EFCC, to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the charge was transferred to the Lagos division of the court and was assigned to Justice M.B. Idris now a Justice of the Court of Appeal.
Upon the transfer of the charge to Lagos, he bore the cost of movement of his entire legal team from Abuja to Lagos including the cost of accommodation up till judgment.
Senator Kalu disclosed that at the trial, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses and thereafter, closed it’s case, necessitating him together with other defendants to enter individually and respectively a no case submission.
He stated how midway through the trial, Justice Idris was elevated to the Court of Appeal as a Justice of the Court and subsequently took the oath of office and subscribed to the oath of Allegiance on June 22, 2018 and lost his position as a Judge of the Federal High Court.
The applicant also narrated how by a Fiat dated July 2, 2018, issued under the hand of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Idris was directed to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the trial, then part-heard in charge no: FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007, between FRN vs Orji Kalu and 2 others.
That in his judgment on December 5, 2019, Justice Idris convicted and sentenced him with respect to the extant charge.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, says no government should use COVID-19 as an excuse not to invest in infrastructural development that can foster economic development and prosperity.
Governor Wike made this assertion during a facility tour of the ultramodern Government House hospital and Administrative building in Port Harcourt by the Senate Chief Whip and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
He said Rivers State will not join the league of States that hide under the guise of COVID-19 pandemic to deny their people basic infrastructure like roads which is universally acknowledged as a major contributor to higher economic productivity, growth, and trade.
“Covid-19 cannot be an excuse to any government. COVID -19 is a bad thing, but it has come. It will go whether we like it or not. But people will also be alive. Infrastructure must be provided, so you can’t say because of COVID 19 nothing will be done. At the time COVID 19 ends, what will the people be facing? Lack of basic infrastructure. So, because of COVID19, I am not going to be doing anything? I am not a party to that. I will continue to work whether there is COVID-19 or not.”
Governor Wike explained his administration has conscientiously been investing in high-quality infrastructure that has positive economic value that can stimulate job creation, boost foreign direct investment in the State.
He stated that in the midst of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the State government on Wednesday approved two additional flyovers at the cost of N 12.4 billion to Julius Berger.
According to him, investment in these projects have been made possible because of the government’s judicious application of State resources to meet the pressing needs of the people.
“You manage whatever you have for the interest of the people. Infrastructure brings investments. Part of the problem we have in this country today is the decay of infrastructure. We don’t have it and that also affects investment inflow.
“So, when these roads are there, you will see people will come in. You don’t expect a private investor to begin to do road for you. It is not possible.
“You want to do agriculture, there is no road. How can we do agriculture when there is no road. How will the product be brought to the city, to the market? So, you must provide this basic infrastructure for investment inflow and that is what we are doing.”
Governor Wike applauded Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for visiting Rivers State to assess what his administration is doing to improve the quality of life of the people.
He said such bipartisan collaboration is required for the country to move forward.
Senator Kalu after inspection of the Government House hospital and Administrative Building, said Governor Wike’s deliberate investment in crucial infrastructural is commendable.
“All the facilities I have seen here are first class. This is what I can’t even see in Europe. The hospital I have seen, the doctors’ room, the conference centre is something else. I must commend Governor Wike. You see I am a bipartisan person. We need to commend anybody who has done a good job. He is PDP, I am APC.”
The Senate Chief Whip implored the Federal, State, and Local authorities to urgently consider it worthwhile to emulate the Rivers State government by investing in ultramodern hospitals like the one built by the Wike’s administration. According to him, this will help to curtail the huge foreign exchange expended on medical tourism.
“I advise every other State governor or the local authorities and national authorities to build hospitals like this. If you know how much we spend on medical tourism, you will pity this country.”
He further added: “We are not talking about the party, I am talking about conscience and what I have seen. This is fantastic. I have never seen any private hospital in Nigeria or government-owned hospital as I have seen in Government House.”
A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the re-arraignment of former Abia State Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu in an alleged seven point one billion naira (N7.1bn) money-laundering charges be put on hold pending the resolution of the legality of the retrial charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Inyang Ekwo in a ruling on an ex-parte application also granted leave to the Senator representing Abia north, to challenge the legality of the retrial in the same charges.
The judge admitted that Senator Kalu who is the Senate Chief Whip had placed sufficient materials of value before the court to enable him to secure permission for judicial review of his retrial in charges in which he had been tried, convicted, and spent some months at Kuje prison in Abuja.
Justice Ekwo who announced that the order of the court shall operate as a stay of proceedings also granted senator Kalu permission to apply for an order of perpetual injunction against the federal government through EFCC to prohibit his retrial so as not to be made to suffer double jeopardy.
The court consequently fixed February 23, 2021, for mention.
However, in a unanimous judgment by a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, delivered on May 8th, 2020, the Apex Court nullified the entire proceedings that led to Senator Kalu’s conviction, stressing that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, was already elevated to the court of appeal, as at the time he sat and delivered judgement against the defendants.
It noted that Justice Idris was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as of December 5, 2019, the day the former governor and his co-defendants were found guilty of the money laundering charge against them.
The apex court ordered a retrial of the defendants.
The Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, has urged the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to extend the tenure of the Governor Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker Committee of the party to March 2021.
He made the request to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) in a statement by his spokesperson, Kunle Oyewumi, on Monday.
Kalu, who is a former governor of Abia State, believes there is no need for a ‘fire brigade approach’ on the proposed convention scheduled for December.
“It is with deep patriotic concerns and the future growth of our great party that I am appealing to the National Executive Council to consider extending the tenure of Governor Mai Mala Buni led APC Caretaker Committee to March 2021, against the December proposed period.
“This is to give the caretaker committee members the needed time to put things in order and hand over properly to new leadership in the end,” he said.
The lawmaker stressed the importance of winning the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, saying it was paramount to the party at the moment.
He was worried that the caretaker committee was not offering its best due to time constraints, adding that majority of the participants would be very busy with their national tasks during the December proposed period.
Kalu noted that lawmakers in the National Assembly and ministers would also be focused on budget preparation and defence and would not be in a better position to offer their best to the party.
He said, “I don’t see any need of fire brigade approach for them to hand over to new leadership by December.
“The committee is expected to focus their attention on Edo State because the Edo State election will determine the strength of any new leadership.”
According to the former governor, holding the convention in December will also not give the party the desired results needed.
He stated that some of the ministers would also need to travel to their wards and make adequate preparations for the party’s congress.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has reacted to the judgment of the Supreme Court which nullified the conviction of former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.
In a statement on Friday by its Head of Media and Publicity, Dele Oyewale, the anti-graft agency noted that the apex court did not acquit the former governor of the charges against him.
Earlier, a seven-man panel of the apex court led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour nullified the conviction of Senator Kalu and Ude Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who delivered the lead judgment, held that the Federal High Court in Lagos which tried and convicted the former governor and his aide, as well as his firm – Slok Nigeria Limited, acted without jurisdiction.
He noted that Justice Mohammed Idris who sentenced them was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal, as at that time.
The Supreme Court Justice added that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.
According to him, the 1999 Constitution does not permit a judge elevated to a higher court to return to a lower court to conclude a trial he began.
The seven-man panel unanimously set aside the judgement that convicted the defendants and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants by another judge.
Justice Idris had convicted and sentenced Senator Kalu to 12 years imprisonment, and Mr Udeogu to 10 years imprisonment in his judgement delivered in December 2019.
In its reaction, the EFFC described the judgment of the apex court as ‘a technical ambush’ against Kalu’s trial.
It, however, stressed that it was prepared for another trial of the case as its evidences against the former governor and his co-defendants were overwhelming.
Read the statement from the anti-graft agency below:
Orji Kalu: EFCC SET FOR FRESH, IMMEDIATE RE-TRIAL
The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been drawn to the judgment of the Supreme Court nullifying the trial of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account of Abia State Government and ordering their fresh trial at the lower court.
The apex court based its verdict on the grounds that Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Kalu and others had been elevated to the Court of Appeal before the judgment and returned to the lower court to deliver the judgment which it considered as illegal.
The EFCC considers the judgment of the apex court as quite unfortunate. It is a technical ambush against the trial of the former governor.
The Commission is prepared for a fresh and immediate trial of the case because its evidences against Kalu and others are overwhelming.
The corruption charges against Kalu still subsist because the Supreme Court did not acquit him of them.
The entire prosecutorial machinery of the EFCC would be launched in a fresh trial where justice is bound to be served in due course.
The management of the Sun newspaper has condemned the actions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who on Saturday marked the publication’s corporate headquarters in Lagos linked to former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.
The EFCC said the marking was to ensure that the properties were not dissipated, following the December 5, 2019 order of Justice Muhammed Idris sitting at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, that Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, be wound up and all assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
The newspaper, in a statement, distanced itself from the legal battle between Mr. Kalu and the EFCC, stressing that a Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution were duly served on EFCC by the bailiffs of the court.
Read the full statement below:
EFCC VISIT TO THE SUN OFFICE WITH ARMED POLICEMEN: OUR STAND
Three officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with four heavily armed policemen on Saturday, December 14, 2019, at about 10.00 am, arrived the corporate headquarters of The Sun Publishing Limited at 2, Coscharis Street, Kirikiri Industrial Layout, Apapa, Lagos and put up a notice for staff and the general public to keep off the premises. The EFCC officials, who came in a white Toyota bus with registration number, ABUJA BWR-644GA, wrote on The Sun’s fence, “EFCC, keep off.” They also advised our staff to collect their personal belongings from the office as they will come back to seal the premises completely.
We do not understand the legal basis for this EFCC action. It is on record that there is a pending appeal at the Supreme Court with Suit No: SC/546/2018 wherein The Sun Publishing Limited appealed against the Judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal on the interim forfeiture order made against it by a Federal High Court in 2007 based on ex parte proceeding. The Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution were duly served on EFCC by the bailiffs of the Court.
It is also pertinent to state that EFCC vide a letter written by Counsel to The Sun Publishing Limited, dated 22nd May 2018 and duly received by one Caleb Peter on behalf of Rotimi Jacobs & Co. was further put on notice of the pending appeal at the Supreme Court and advised to stay action in the matter pending the hearing of the Motion for Stay of execution and the appeal.
Again, it is instructive to state that The Sun Publishing Limited was not a party to the case of EFCC vs. Orji Uzor Kalu & 2 Others, so we do not see why the Judgment, in that case, should lead to attempt to seal The Sun Publishing Limited premises.
Furthermore, we are aware that both Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Slok Nig Limited have since appealed the Judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Idris and a hearing date given.
We wish to reiterate that The Sun Publishing Limited is an ongoing corporate limited liability company and its shares are owned by various individuals distinct from Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. Therefore, the recent Judgment against Senator Orji Uzor Kalu should not be used to disturb the operations of the company and the proprietary rights of its innocent shareholders until the matters are dispensed with at the Supreme Court.
In view of the foregoing, we call and appeal to the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to urgently intervene and advise EFCC appropriately on the legal consequences of its actions.
In one of the counts, the EFCC alleged that Mr Kalu, who was Abia State Governor between 1999 and 2007, procured Slok Nigeria Limited – a company solely owned by him and members of his family – to retain its account, domiciled with the then Inland Bank Plc, Apapa branch, Lagos, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7
The prosecution claimed that the sum N7.1billion formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and therefore violating Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.
Apart from the N7.1billion, the ex-governor and the other defendants were also accused of receiving a total of N460million allegedly stolen from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
The prosecutor said they breached Section 427 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all counts.
During the trial, the prosecution called 19 witnesses while the defendants testified on behalf of themselves.