By Olalekan Awojodu
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja on Monday ordered that the re-arraignment of former Abia State governor, Senator Orji Uzo Kalu over an alleged N7.1 bn money laundering charges be put on hold.
According to the court, the resolution of the legality of the retrial charges against him is still pending.
In an ex-parte application at the sitting, Justice Ekwo also granted leave to the Senator representing Abia North, to challenge the legality of the retrial in the same charges.
The Judge agreed that Kalu who is Senate Chief Whip had placed sufficient materials of value before the court to enable him secure permission of court for judicial review of his retrial in charges in which he had been tried, convicted and spent some months in Kuje prison in Abuja.
Kalu has also been permitted to apply for order of perpetual injunction against the Federal Government through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC to prohibit his retrial so as not to be made to suffer double jeopardy.
Consequently, the Judge gave Kalu seven days within which to file and serve on EFCC all processes he intends to use to challenge the legality of the trial.
The court has therefore fixed the matter for February 23, 2021 for mention.
Kalu had asked the Court to prohibit the EFCC from retrying him on the same alleged N7.1B money laundering charges against him.
He contented that having been tried once by EFCC, convicted and sentenced in the same charges FHC/ABJ/CR/56/ 2007, it will amount to double jeopardy for him if he is allowed to be subjected to a fresh trial on same charge.
In the ex-parte motion moved before Justice Ekwo last Tuesday by his counsel, Profesor Awa Kalu (SAN), Senator Kalu pleaded with the court to rescue him from suffering double jeopardy
He further sought for an order of court prohibiting the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the EFCC, its 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.
The ex governor also applied for 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 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.
Kalu further asked that if his application is granted, it should operate as a stay of proceedings until the determination of the application or until the Judge otherwise orders.