By Taiye Agbaje
Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday fixed Sept. 29 for judgment in a suit filed by Slok Nigeria Limited against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Slok, which is owned by former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu, is seeking the court order restraining the EFCC from retrying the firm and its chairman (Kalu) in the the alleged N7.1 billion fraud case.
Justice Ekwo fixed the date after counsel to the parties adopted their processes.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while the EFCC is the 1st respondent in the case filed by the company, Kalu and his former Director of Finance in Abia, Jones Udeogu, are the 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively.
When the came up, Counsel to the applicant (Slok), Chief Chris Uche, SAN, told the court that the matter was slated for the adoption of his process.
But the EFCC’s Lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, informed that he had just filed a motion for extension of time to enable him filed the agency’s counter affidavit.
“I learnt it was an issue on the last adjourned date,” he said.
The court adopted the motion after counsel to other parties did not oppose it and the the senior lawyer moved the motion.
Moving his motion, Uche said the motion on notice for order of prohibition dated June 25 was filed June 26.
The lawyer argued that the suit was anchored on Section 36(9) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which creates an exception to the creation of double jeopardy and says except an order of a superior court of law.
He said that the EFCC had been unable to produce any exhibit or make a reference to any order of any court of law directing that Slok Nigeria Ltd should be retried.
“Briefly, there is no dispute that there was a complete trial.
“All the features of a trial from arraignment, plea, evidence, legal submission, judgment resulting in either conviction or acquittal are there.
“All these features are complete. Before there must be a retrial, there must be an order of court,” Uche insisted.
According to him, it will be illegal for the 1st respondent (EFCC) to attempt to re-arraign or re-prosecute the applicant (Slok).
Counsel to Kalu (2nd respondent), Chuka Obidike, said a written address dated July 9 was filed July 12 in support of the applicant’s argument.
“We urge the court to uphold all the reliefs of the application of the applicant,” he said.
Also, Counsel to Udeogu (3rd respondent), George Ukaegbu, urged the court to grant all the reliefs in respect to the applicant’s motion on notice.
Opposing their prayers, the anti-graft agency’s lawyer, Jacobs, said counter affidavit was filed on July 12.
According to him, we have shown in the counter affidavit the circumstance and what led to this and the judgment of the Supreme Court.
Jacobs argued that the court would see “from the order of Hon. Justice Liman because the applicant did not show any nexus between this case and the sister case that was considered.”
He urged the court to dismiss the application and rule in their favour.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until Sept. 29 for judgment.
NAN reports that the anti-graft agency had, in 2007, preferred a 36-count charge against Udeogu and Kalu, who currently represents Abia North Senatorial District at the National Assembly.
While the former governor bagged 12 years imprisonment in December 2019, Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years in prison on December 5, 2019.
However, the Supreme Court on May 8, 2020, voided the trial after an appeal filed by Kalu’s co-defendant.
The Supreme Court nullified the trial on the grounds that Mohammed Idris, the trial judge, had no jurisdiction to hear the matter after he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Based on the apex court’s verdict, the EFCC, which prosecuted the case, filed a corruption retrial suit against Kalu and other defendants at a Federal High Court, Abuja, and asked the court to transfer the matter to the Lagos division of the court.
But Slok, in an exparte application, sought an Order prohibiting the Federal Government through the EFCC, her agents, her officers, servants, privies and any other person or bodies deriving authority from the Federal Republic of Nigeria from retrying the applicant on charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07 or any other charge based on the same facts.”
The company, which alleged that they were being embarrassed and harassed by the anti-corruption commission, urged the court to stop the EFCC from further retrial.
In the applicant’s processes, it also claimed that the apex court had voided the matter and “did not order its retrial.”
NAN also reports that Justice Ekwo had, on July 2, fixed Sept. 20 for judgment in another suit wherein the ex-governor is seeking the court order prohibiting his retrial.