The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has received a straight order from the Supreme Court to prosecute ex-governor Orji Kalu of Abia state on a 107-count charge for money laundering and illegal diversion of public funds worth N5.6billion.
Kalu was alleged to have perpetuated the fraud during his reign as the 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.
The defendant firstly challenged the competence of the charge against him, as well as the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear and determine the case.
Meanwhile, following refusal by the trial court to quash the charge, Orji Kalu took the case before the Court of Appeal in Abuja. The appellate court, 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 a prima-facie nexus linking him to the ingredients of the offence contained in the charge. It was his contention 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, even as it 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. The apex court also ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign the case to another Judge so as to commence the trail afresh as well as speed up the court hearing.