DEZ MAYORZ obtained the judgement that The Supreme Court has nullified the judgment which convicted the former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu.
A seven-man panel of the apex court also set aside the judgment which convicted Ude Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House.
The Supreme Court gave the judgement on Friday, more than one year after both men were convicted of corruption allegations levelled against them by the Federal Government.
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos had sentenced Senator Kalu to 12 years imprisonment in his judgement delivered on April 24, 2019.
He had also sentenced Mr Udeogu to 10 years imprisonment on the same day.
Displeased with the judgement of the Federal High Court, Kalu and Udeogu filed an appeal to challenge their sentencing at the Supreme Court.
The apex court, in a unanimous verdict on the appeal delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, declared that the conviction of the appellants was null and void.
Justice Ejembi Eko, who delivered the lead judgment also declared as unconstitutional the provision of section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, on which the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (retd), relied on to authorise Justice Idris to return to the Court of Appeal to conclude the trial.
Justice Eko explained that the declaration was on the ground that Justice Mohammed Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal, as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.
He held that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.
The apex court, therefore, ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case for trial.
Below is what Orji Uzor Kalu has to say.
The Senator representing Abia North senatorial district at the red chamber whose conviction was nullified by the Supreme Court has issued his first statement after spending five months in prison.
The former governor of Abia State who was convicted by the Federal high Court over N7.2bn fraud said; “…the events of the past five months gave me an added perspective on matters of justice and injustice in Nigeria.”
The lawmaker in a terse statement signed by him also stated they the judgement has further reaffirmed his belief in the judicial system.
The full statement reads below..
“Today, the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave a judgment in my favor, quashing the conviction which the lower court had entered against me. By today’s judgment, the Apex court of our dear country affirmed my right to fair hearing and equal protection of the law.
“The past five months have been quite a profound period for me. As challenging as that period has been, it has provided me an opportunity to learn invaluable lessons about our country, our peoples, our justice system and the true meaning of love. I mean love for family, love for our country and love for humanity.
“I must accord a special mention to the Justices of our Supreme Court for their unwavering commitment to rule of law. We all stand reminded of the consistent and strategic relevance of the Nigerian Supreme Court in holding this country together, even in moments of great peril. As far back as in the 1971 case of LAKANMI V. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION, (the Ademola Adetikumbo-led Court) the Nigerian Supreme Court has severally rescued this country from the precipice.
“Overall, my experience tested and reaffirmed my belief and confidence in our country, Nigeria. My case is a true Nigerian story with a bold MADE-IN-NIGERIA stamp on it. It is a story of initial injustice that was caught and ultimately corrected. It is a story of restoration. It is a story of how a wrong was righted and how justice and truth prevailed in the end. It is a story of the power of hope. My case should teach us all that even though we may not get things right at the first attempt, with patience and dedication, we shall get them right eventually. That is the lesson of my case and that is the lesson of our country – that with dedication and patience, we shall place Nigeria in its rightful place eventually.
“Before I end, I would like to let it be known that the events of the past five months gave me an added perspective on matters of justice and injustice in Nigeria. I have come to know that the course of justice will not be complete if it stopped at my case. It must continue until it touches the lives of millions of Nigerians who face injustice anywhere in this world. I shall be dedicating my time henceforth to ensuring there will be justice for all Nigerians whether they are in Sokoto or Akwa Ibom or in Lagos or Maiduguri or in Jos or Enugu, or wherever they may be. Justice for one man or for a few people will no longer be enough in this country.
“A system whereby over 70% of all prison inmates population is made up of people awaiting trial cannot be allowed to continue. Situations where innocent people are falsely charged with murder just to get them out of the way does not dignify our country and cannot continue. Justice must now mean justice for all. That is my pledge to Nigerians.
I look forward to rejoining my colleagues in the Senate as soon as possible.
Thank you and God bless all of you.