Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Barr. Mike Ozekhome, has hailled the Supreme court ruling that nullified the conviction of former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, by a Lagos high court over alleged misappropriation of N7.1 billion belonging to the State.
The Supreme Court, on Friday, quashed the judgement that convicted and sentenced the former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor-Kalu, to 12 years imprisonment.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-man panel of Justices led by Justice Amina Augie, held that the Federal High Court in Lagos acted without jurisdiction when it convicted Kalu, his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and former Director of Finance in Abia State, Jones Udeogu.
It held that trial Justice Mohammed 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 for allegedly stealing about N7.1billion from Abia state treasury.
Consequently, the apex court vacated the judgement that convicted the defendants and ordered a fresh trial of the defendants.
It held that the Fiat that was issued to him by the Court of Appeal President pursuant to section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act was unconstitutional.
Reacting, Ozekhome described the apex court ruling as constitutional and true position of the law, adding that the ruling has found supremacy of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria over and above other laws including acts of parliament.
Speaking exclusively to Nigerian Pilot, the human right activist said, “The judgment is very sound in law, very sound on constitutionality, very sound on rule of law, and due process.”
Also reacting to the apex court pronouncement, the chairman of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Abuja branch, Barr. Abimbola Michael Kayode, told Nigerian Pilot that he aligned with the position of the supreme court which stated that justice Liman had no jurisdiction to hear the case having being promoted to the appeal court.
Kayode added that despite the fact that there is an act of parliament that empowers the President of court of appeal to allow a judge that has been promoted to the appeal court to go back to the high court to complete a case he started, it was in contravention of the provision of the constitution which states that a jugdge from the appellate court lacks jurisdiction to hear a case in the high court.
He stressed that as the grand num, any time any other extant law clashes with the constitution, the constution of the land prevails.
According to the Supreme Court, Justice Liman, having been elevated to the Court of Appeal before then, lacked the powers to return to sit as a High Court Judge.
On December 5, 2019, a Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday sentenced Orji Kalu, to 12 years’ imprisonment for N7.2 billion fraud and money laundering.