Mixed reactions have continued to trail the decision of a seven-man panel of Nigeria’s apex court which today set aside the judgment that convicted former Abia state governor, Orji Uzo Kalu and Ude Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House.
The Supreme Court gave the judgement came about five months 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 in December 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 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 court had ordered the case to be reassigned for fresh trial.
In response to the judgement, Nigerians have in their various reactions expressed mixed at the decision of the apex court variously describing it as a huge joke, shame or condemnable.
In a tweet immediately after the judgement, Adebanjo Taiwo had this to say: “Government magic, Fela don talk ham! The last hope of ordinary Nigerians is now the deadliest arm of government as far as Nigeria is concern. Now all retired justices and judge of High, Appeal and Supreme Court of Nigeria place now transmit blood related to….”.
Similarly, one Ayo Babalade tweeted: “So Orji Kalu is now a free man! I weep for the future of this country. Our Supreme Court is so confused to the extent it’s making its subordinate court and judges look foolish.”
However, Christian Anjukwu agreed with the decision of the apex court:
“I support this judgment of the Supreme Court on Orji Uzor Kalu. The Constitution created Courts of different levels and jurisdiction. These Courts are to be manned by different Judges as well. It shouldn’t be heard that a judge is shuttling two courts of different cadres”, he said.
Also reacting to the apex court judgement, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is set for the immediate retrial of the former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor-Kalu.
In a statement, EFCC’s Spokesman, Mr. Dele Oyewale, said the commission expressed sadness over the nullification of Kalu’s conviction by the Supreme Court.
Oyewale stated that the apex court based its verdict on the grounds that Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Kalu and others, had been elevated to the Court of Appeal before the judgment.
“The EFCC considers the judgment of the apex court as quite unfortunate. It is a technical ambush against the trial of the former governor.
“The Commission is prepared for a fresh and immediate retrial of the case because its evidences against Kalu and others are overwhelming.
“The corruption charges against Kalu still subsist because the Supreme Court did not acquit him of them.
“The entire prosecutorial machinery of the EFCC will be launched in a fresh trial where justice is bound to be served in due course,” he said.