- The Court of Appeal in Lags has upheld the dismissal of the no-case submission’ filed by Orji Uzor Kalu, in response to charges brought against him by the EFCC
- The defendants were, therefore, ordered to return to the high court to put in their defence
- Instead of giving defense when EFCC wrapped up its case in 2018, Kalu’s team had stalled; filing submissions and seeking an adjournment to proceed for medical treatment abroad
- When the case last came up in court, the trial judge had stated that he would go no further till he had received directions from the appellate court
The dismissal of the ‘no-case submission’ filed by Orji Uzor Kalu, the former Abia governor, in response to the N7.65bn fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been upheld by the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos.
The appellate court, in a lead judgment by Justice Mohammed Garba, agreed that Kalu’s no-case submission was rightfully dismissed by Justice Mohammed Idris, then of the Federal High Court in Lagos, who ordered the ex governor to put in his defense, Channels reports.
Legit.ng gathers that the appeals filed by Kalu’s co-defendants, Slok Nigeria Limited and Ude Udeogu, challenging the jurisdiction of Justice Idris to continue hearing the case after he was elevated from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal, were also dismissed by the court.
According to Justice Garba, contrary to the contention of the appellants’, the constitution was not offended by Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which empowers a high judge to continue to hear a part-heard criminal matter after being elevated to the Court of Appeal.
The defendants were, therefore, ordered to return to the high court to put in their defence.
After calling 19 witnesses, the EFCC, in 2018, closed its case in the 12-year-old trial of the defendants.
Kalu and his co-defendants filed no-case submissions, however, instead of putting in their defense.
Justice Idris was then elevated to the Court of Appeal, before he could hear and rule on the submission.
Section 396(7) of the ACJA was then activated by Kalu’s lawyer, Prof Awa Kalu (SAN), in order to prevent the case from being transferred to another judge to start afresh.
The senior advocate also applied to the Court of Appeal’s president, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to give a fiat to Justice Idris, so that he could return to the high court to conclude the case.
As a result, Justice Idris was given a fiat to continue hearing the case, with a condition that he must conclude it by the end of September 2018.
The judge dismissed the defendants’ no-case submissions on July 31, 2018 and ordered them to open their defense.
However, instead of opening his defense, Kalu sought a six-week adjournment to embark on a trip to Germany to have surgery for an undisclosed ailment.
Later, the defendants argued that Idris was no longer a judge of the high court, and challenged his jurisdiction to hear the case.
Pending the outcome of their appeals, they also filed an application seeking a stay of proceedings. Both were dismissed by Justice Idris.
The judge then revoked Kanu’s bail when the former governor did not subsequently make himself available for his trial, and ordered him to submit himself to the EFCC within 24 hours of his return to the country.
On January 23 when the case last came up in court, the prosecutor, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), complained about Kalu’s repeated absence from court, alleging that the court was being taken for a ride by the former governor, now a senator-elect.
He also pointed out that Kanu did not turn himself into the EFCC, despite the court’s order.
While urging Justice Idris to continue hearing in Kalu’s absence, Jacobs said: “He (Kalu) kept on campaigning for his senatorial ambition, slapping the court in the face; his attitude is unbecoming.”
But in response, Justice Idris said the second fiat given him by the Appeal Court president had expired in November 2018; and as such, he could not proceed with the case.
While adjourning the 12-year-old case indefinitely, Justice Idris held: “This matter was listed today because it was adjourned till today for defense. What has happened is that the last fiat that was issued by the president of the Court of Appeal has expired at the end of November 2018.
“On the 10th of January, 2019, I received a fresh fiat in respect of some matters that I have started and some new matters but this particular case was not mentioned.
“For this reason, I have a strong feeling that I shouldn’t continue with proceedings in this case unless there is a further directive from the president of the Court of Appeal.
“I should not proceed further; otherwise I might be acting without authority. In the circumstance, I am of the view that further proceedings shouldn’t go on until I receive further information by way of fresh fiat from the Court of Appeal president.”
The judge said hearing notice will be sent to counsel, as soon as he receives further instructions.
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Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that Orji Uzor Kalu said he was ready to be tried at the Federal High Court in Lagos over the alleged N7.6 billion fraud charge preferred against him by the EFCC.
The ex-governor made the statement after President Muhammadu Buhari's visit to his home in Bende local government area of Abia state.
Kalu said he had never run away from trial and that he was very prepared for it.
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