The Supreme Court on Friday nullified the ruling of a Federal High Court in Lagos that convicted the former governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
The Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling by a seven-man panel of Justices led by Justice Amina Augie, averred that Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Lagos sat and acted without jurisdiction when he ruled and convicted Senator Kalu, his company- Slok Nigeria Limited and the former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu.
The apex court further ruled that Justice Liman was no longer a judge of the Federal High Court as at the time he sat and delivered the judgement that convicted the defendants over alleged stealing of about N7.1billion from the Abia State treasury.
The Supreme Court specifically ruled that Justice Liman, having been elevated to the Court of Appeal, lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge to rule on the matter.
The apex court noted that the Fiat issued to Justice Liman by the Court of Appeal President pursuant to section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was unconstitutional and therefore illegal. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the judgement that convicted Senator Kalu and two other defendants and ordered for a fresh trial of the defendants as well as ordered for the immediate release of Kalu from prison.
Justice Mohammed Idris, who had been elevated to the Court of Appeal bench, had returned to the Federal High Court in Lagos to complete the case which started in 2007.
The judge had sentenced the ex-governor to 12 years imprisonment for the fraud he allegedly perpetrated during his tenure as Abia State governor.