- A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, said appeal court judges are empowered to hear cases at the trial courts
- Falana said the Supreme Court judgement that nullified Orji Kalu's conviction was against the acts of the apex court and the appeal courts in that regards
- Orji, a former Abia state governor, was convicted five months ago over alleged stealing of about N7.1 billion from Abia state treasury
Femi Falana has differed on the Supreme Court verdict on the former governor of Abia state Orji Uzor Kalu, with the human rights lawyer saying appeal court judges are empowered to hear cases at the trial courts.
Legit.ng recalls that Supreme Court nullified the court judgment that sentenced the former governor to 12 years imprisonment over alleged corruption.
The apex court nullified Kalu’s conviction in a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of justices led by Justice Amina Augie on Friday, May 8.
Building its case on a technicality, the panel faulted the conviction of the former governor on the grounds that the Federal High Court in Lagos acted without jurisdiction.
The apex court ruled that the trial Justice Mohammed Idris Liman was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at the time he sat and delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants for allegedly stealing about N7.1 billion from Abia state treasury.
Reacting to the judgment on Tuesday, May 12, Falana argued that acts of both supreme and appeal courts allowed judges to exercise powers of the trial courts, The Cable reports.
"Whereas section 396 (7) of the ACJA permits a Justice of the Court of Appeal to conclude a part-heard the criminal matter in the high court section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act empowers the Justices of the Court to exercise the powers of a trial court as if the proceedings had been instituted in the Court of Appeal as a Court of first instance," Falana said.
"In the same vein, section 22 of the Supreme Court Act has vested the Justices of the Court of the apex court with the powers of a trial court as if the proceedings had been instituted in the Court as a court of first instance.
"Thus by virtue of section 22 of the Supreme Court Act and section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act both appellate courts are permitted by the National Assembly to jettison the judgments of high courts and rehear the cases as if they were filed in both courts as courts of first instance.
"In the process, the Justices of both appellate courts are allowed to grant interim or interlocutory orders of injunction and conduct trials like judges of the high court and deliver their judgments in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the court of first instance."
Meanwhile, Legit.ng reported that despite the Supreme Court judgment that nullified the sentencing of Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor remained in Kuje prison four days after the verdict.
The apex court did not issue any order for Kalu’s release because he did not file any application for such.
According to the report, the comptroller-general of Nigeria Correctional Service, Jaafar Ahmed, also refused to release Kalu because there was no order from the Supreme Court to that effect.
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