The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the release of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu from the Kuje Correctional Centre in Abuja.
Justice Mohammed Liman ordered Senator Kalu’s release on Tuesday morning after listening to an application filed by the former governor.
Senator Kalu, a two-term former governor of Abia State, had urged the court to set aside his conviction on December 5, 2019, by Justice Mohammed Idris.
He explained that this became necessary since the Supreme Court, in its verdict delivered on May 8, 2020, held that Justice Idris gave the judgment without jurisdiction.
Justice Liman had on May 20 fixed Tuesday for the hearing of the application filed by Senator Kalu after the suit was assigned to him.
He fixed the date more than one week after the Supreme Court nullified the judgment which convicted the former governor and Mr Ude Udeogu, a former Director of Finance and Account at the Abia State Government House.
At the hearing of the application on Tuesday, Counsel to Senator Kalu, Lateef Fagbemi, asked Justice Liman to order the release of the former governor following the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.
According to him, the application was made pursuant to Section 159 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
On his part, Counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs, did not oppose the application.
He noted that the case had dragged for over 13 years and it was better for the trial to proceed immediately so that parties would not lose more time.
The EFCC counsel also asked the court to ensure that the order of the Supreme Court for trial to start afresh be complied with, so that all parties could come before the court for a fresh arraignment and trial of the defendants.
In a summary judgment, Justice Liman held that Orji Kalu’s application seeking his freedom was meritorious.
He also ordered the EFCC to file its processes for a fresh arraignment of the defendants after which the date for trial would be communicated to all parties in the case.
About five months after both men were convicted of corruption allegations levelled against them by the Federal Government, a seven-man panel of the apex court declared the conviction of the appellants as null and void.
In a unanimous verdict delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court held that Justice Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal, as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.
He added that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.
The apex court later ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case for trial.