The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the release of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, from prison.
Jusitce Mohammed Liman gave the order for Kalu’s release on Tuesday.
The former Abia governor was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on December 5, 2019, after he was convicted of N7.1bn fraud.
He was convicted along with his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and a former Director of Finance at the Abia State Government House, Jones Udeogu.
But the Supreme Court, in a judgment on May 8, 2020, nullified Kalu’s and others’ trial and conviction on the grounds that the judge who handled the case lacked jurisdiction.
The apex court’s judgment followed an appeal by Udeogu, contending that the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, concluded the 12-year-old trial and gave judgment after he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal and ceased to be a judge of the Federal High Court.
However, on Tuesday, Kalu’s lawyer, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), urged Justice Liman to order the release of the former Abia governor from prison custody, based on the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Udeogu’s appeal.
“Our application is brought pursuant to Section 159 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act. This is a fallout of the Supreme Court decision delivered on the 8th of May,” Fagbemi said.
Responding, the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said that the anti-graft agency would not, in principle, oppose the release of the former Abia governor from prison.
According to Jacobs, “But we are also urging the court that the order made by the Supreme Court for trial de novo should be complied with by all parties; so that Your Lordship will give us a date when arraignment will be done.
“We want the trial to go on; losing more time will be dangerous for us.”