FORMER Abia State governor Senator Orji Uzor Kalu appears to have got away with his N7bn money laundering charge after a federal high court barred the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from retrying him over the matter.
Between 1999 and 2007, Senator Kalu served as the Abia State governor and on December 5 2019, he was sentenced to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of fraud to the tune of N7.65bn ($21m). Prior to his conviction, he was elected as the senator representing Abia North Senatorial District with a margin of over 10,000 votes despite the pending corruption charges against him.
On May 8 last year, Senator Kalu had his conviction quashed by the Nigerian Supreme Court on a technicality that he was convicted by the wrong type of court. Senator Orji was released after the Supreme Court ruled that Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted him had been elevated to the Court of Appeal bench, so thus had no jurisdiction to hear his case.
Since them, the EFCC has been trying to get him re-tried but today, senator Kalu secured a landmark victory after Justice Inyang Ekwo, ruled that the Supreme Court did not in the verdict it gave on May 8, 2020, order a retrial. He held that the Supreme Court only ordered the retrial of the former director of finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu, who was the appellant before it.
Consequently, the court upheld a suit Senator Kalu filed to challenge the legal propriety of his planned re-arraignment by the EFCC. In his application Senator Kalu 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 suffering double jeopardy.
Senator Kalu successfully argued: “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. The trial of the applicant having been pronounced a nullity by the Supreme Court in its judgment dated the 8th day of May, 2020 and without more, cannot entitle the EFCC to institute the same charge against the applicant.”