A Federal High Court sitting in Abuj has barred the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from retrying a former governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu, over allegations of money laundering.
The EFCC had prosecuted Kalu alongside Ude Udeogu, a former director of finance and accounts with the Abia State Government, and Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, N7.1 billion fraud at a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Mohammed Idris, who is now a judge at the Court of Appeal, had at the end of the trial, sentenced Kalu to 12 years’ in prison while Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The third defendant, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.
However, the Supreme Court on May 8, 2020, voided the trial and ordered a retrial, following an appeal filed by Kalu’s co-defendant, Udeogu.
But Kalu asked the court to stop the commission from retrying him.
According to him, the Supreme Court’s pronouncement on retrial was peculiar to Udeogu, adding that it will amount to double jeopardy if he is allowed to be subjected to a fresh trial over the same charges.
Delivering judgment on Wednesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the Supreme Court in its judgement did not specifically order that Kalu should be retried.
“He cannot be retried safe with an order of the Supreme Court,” the judge held.
Ekwo, however, held that since the apex court specifically ordered that the case file of Udeogu be returned to the Federal High Court, the EFCC can proceed with his retrial.
“The Supreme Court order on Udeogu was explicit, that the case file be returned to the chief judge for assignment to another judge.
“No order was made that the case file of the former governor be returned to the chief judge for assignment to another judge,” the judge said.
The court has fixed January 11, 2022, for the arraignment of Udeogu.