The Supreme Court on Friday nullified the conviction of former Abia State governor, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu,
The apex court also nullified the conviction of the Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during Kalu’s tenure, Ude Udeogu, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Kalu and Udeogu had been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for corruption.
On December 5, 2019, Justice Mohammed Idris convicted the duo for allegedly stealing public funds while in office.
The judge ordered the third defendant, Slok Nigeria Limited, which is Kalu’s company, to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
The anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had brought the criminal charge against the duo for conspiring and diverting N7.65 billion from the coffers of the state when Kalu was governor of Abia State.
Kalu and Udeogu filed an appeal to challenge their conviction at the apex court to express dissatisfaction with the judgement.
On Friday, a seven-member panel of the apex court led by A seven-member panel of the apex court led by Justice Amina Augie in a unanimous decision set aside the judgement of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos which convicted and sentenced Kalu and Udeogu.
The apex court’s judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, declared the conviction of the appellants as null and void on the ground that Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.
Justice Eko further 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.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has said it would begin a fresh trial of Kalu for theft of public fund and money laundering.
The Supreme Court had on Friday voided Mr Kalu’s conviction to a 12-year jail term for allegedly stealing about N7.1 billion from Abia State treasury while he served as governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.
In a swift reaction to the judgement, the EFCC in a statement on Friday described the order as “quite unfortunate.”
The anri-graft vowed to prepare a fresh and immediate trial of the case.
The EFCC insisted that its evidences against Kalu and Ideogu were overwhelming.