The Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of the no-case submission filed by a former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, in response to the N7.65bn fraud charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Court of Appeal in a lead judgement by Justice M.L. Garba said Justice Mohammed Idris, then of the Federal High Court in Lagos, was right to have on July 31, 2018 dismissed Kalu’s no-case submission and ordered him to put in his defence.
The appellate court also dismissed the appeals filed by Kalu’s co-defendants – Slok Nigeria Limited and Ude Udeogu – challenging the jurisdiction of Justice Idris to continue hearing the case after he was elevated from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal.
Justice Garba held that contrary to the appellants’ contention, Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which empowers a high judge to continue to hear a part-heard criminal matter after being elevated to the Court of Appeal, did not offend the constitution.
The appellate court, therefore, ordered the defendants to return to the high court to put in their defence.
The prosecution had last year closed its case in the 12-year-old trial after calling 19 witnesses.
But rather than open their defence, Kalu and his co-defendants filed no-case submissions.
However, before Justice Idris could hear and rule on the no-case submission he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
In order to prevent the case from being transferred to another judge to start afresh, Kalu’s lawyer, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN), activated Section 396(7) of the ACJA and applied to the Court of Appeal’s President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to give a fiat to Justice Idris, so that he could return to the high court to conclude the case.
As a result, Justice Idris was given a fiat to continue hearing the case, with a condition that he must conclude it by the end of September 2018.
On July 31, 2018, the judge dismissed the defendants’ no-case submissions and ordered them to open their defence.
But rather than proceed to open their defence, Kalu sought a six-week adjournment to embark on a trip to Germany to have a surgery for an undisclosed ailment.
The defendants later challenged the jurisdiction of the judge to hear the case, arguing that he was no longer a judge of the high court.
They also filed an application seeking a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of their appeals.
Justice Idris, however, dismissed both.