The Supreme Court, today, gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the go ahead to prosecute the former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu on a 107-count corruption charge.
The charge borders on the alleged complicity of the former governor in money laundering and illegal diversion of public funds worth N5.6billion.
Kalu was alleged to have perpetuated the fraud while he was Governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007. Though the anti-graft agency docked him before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on July 27, 2007, however, for the past eight years, the defendant, through various interlocutory applications, frustrated moves by the prosecution to open its case against him.
He challenged the competence of the charge against him, as well as the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear and determine the case. However, following refusal by the trial court to quash the charge, Kalu, took the case before the Court of Appeal in Abuja which in a unanimous judgment, upheld the competence of the charge, adding that the high court was constitutionally empowered to exercise jurisdiction on the trial.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Kalu approached the Supreme Court, begging it to set-aside the concurrent findings of the two lower courts.
The former governor, through his lawyer Chief Awa Kalu, SAN, pleaded a five-man panel of Justices of the apex court, headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to quash the criminal charge against him.
He contended that the EFCC failed to establish sufficient evidence linking him to the offence contained in the charge adding that the proof of evidence the anti-graft agency adduced against him did not nail him to the commission of any crime.
Nevertheless, the apex court, in a unanimous judgment on Friday, dismissed the appeal and ordered the appellant to go and face his trial before the high court.
While upholding the Court of Appeal verdict, Justice Suleiman Galadima who delivered the lead verdict, said the apex court was satisfied that the former governor has a case to answer pertaining to allegations that were levelled against him by the EFCC. Besides, the apex court ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign the case to another Judge to enable the trial to commence de-novo (afresh). The apex court also ordered accelerated hearing of the matter.
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