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JUST IN: Constitutional lawyer speaks on release of Orji Kalu from prison

Inihebe Effiong, a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, has reacted to a Supreme Court Judgement nullifying the conviction of Former Abia state governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

Earlier on Friday, the apex court ruled in favour of Kalu, who was jailed in December 2019 for allegedly stealing public funds. He was released after the Supreme Court voided his conviction and ordered a retrial of the case.

Reacting to this, Mr Effiong posited that the Supreme Court’s judgment is constitutional in a statement obtained by POLITICS NIGERIA.

“The Supreme Court is right in setting aside the conviction of Orji Uzor Kalu. I have always maintained the view that it is unconstitutional for a judge of the Federal High Court who has been elevated to the Court of Appeal to continue to sit over cases at the Federal High Court.

“As rightly held by the Apex Court, Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) that empowered the President of the Court of Appeal to give fiat to elevated federal judges to continue to hear and determine part-heard cases is in conflict with the Constitution.”

According to him, the hierarchy of courts is a constitutional creation.

“The moment Justice Idris subscribed to his oath of office as a Justice of the Court of Appeal, his office/former oath as a judge of the Federal High Court became extinct in law. A judicial officer can’t function in two courts.

“The Supreme Court has only affirmed Section 1 (1) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution which renders any other law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution void. This judgment is about the supremacy of the Constitution.”

He noted that the Supreme Court did not pronounce on the guilt or innocence of Kalu and others.

“If Kalu is guilty, the judgment of the Supreme Court may just be a temporary reprieve; it might be a postponement of the evil day for Kalu and his company, Slok Nigeria Ltd. However, the judgment will impact on the ability of the prosecution to prove its case in a fresh trial.”

This case has been on for too long. Kalu at a point fought the prosecution up to the Supreme Court on technical points. The trial was stalled. By the time he lost his interlocutory appeal, a lot had changed, including the elevation of the trial judge to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Effiong, however, added that the prosecution will have to begin afresh search for their witnesses, some of whom may have died or may have lost interest or may not remember what transpired with exactitude.

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