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Court halts trial of Kalu over N1.7bn fraud

Rotimi Jacobs: This judgment is irritating

By Olalekan Awojodu
Abuja

Former Abia State governor, and Senate Leader on Wednesday got a reprieve from being prosecuted for the alleged N1.7 billion he perpetrated against his state. A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the Federal Government and its agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) not to retry him.

Kalu is facing a N1.7 billion fraud case he was earlier allegedly convicted for by the Lagos division of the court.

However, Justice Inyang Ekwo in delivering judgment in an application filed by Kalu halt the trial.

In the application, the former governor sought to stop his retrial on the grounds that it would amount to double jeopardy if he faces the same trial again after he was released from prison.

The judge held that there was no extant order that directed for retrial of Kalu saying that the judgment of the Supreme Court did not affect him.

However, the Court did not spare former commissioner of Finance, Jones Udeogu who was convicted along with Kalu, as the court ordered for his retrial on the same charge and same offence.

Kalu’s counsel, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), while adopting his processes, stated that Kalu stood for trial for 12 years and got a conviction and was jailed for 10 years.

He cited section 36 (9) of the 1999 constitution, which stipulates that no Nigerian shall be subjected to double jeopardy.

Awa Kalu insisted that the former governor having served a period of his jail term would be subjected to double jeopardy if allowed by the court to be put on trial for the second time.

Objecting, the EFCC through its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) asked the court to dismiss the suit, submitting that the judgment, which led to release of Kalu has been declared a nullity by the Supreme Court, adding that the court also ordered the retrial of the appellant.

EFCC argued that since the Supreme Court order benefitted Kalu, he must bear the burden that arose from the apex court verdict.

Jacobs described Kalu’s suit as approbating and reprobating at the same time, frivolous and irritating and called for its dismissal with an order that Kalu should face retrial.

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