The Federal High Court in Lagos has on Tuesday ordered the release of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, from prison.
Justice Mohammed Liman had fixed June 2 to hear a motion on notice filed by Kalu seeking release from prison based on the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Udeogu’s appeal.
The former governor, in his application through his counsel, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), asked the court to order his release from the custody of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Kuje, Abuja, following the nullification of his conviction by the Supreme Court.
In a May 8, 2020, judgment the Supreme Court nullified the trial and conviction of Kalu and others on the grounds that the judge, who handled the case lacked jurisdiction.
On December 5, 2019, the 60-year-old politician was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment while Udeogu got a 10-year sentence.
According to the apex court held that Mohammed Idris, the trial judge, who had been elevated to the Court of Appeal at the time of the case, ought not to have presided over the matter while he was an appellate court Judge.
The judgment of the Supreme Court which nullified the conviction of Kalu and his subsequent application seeking to be released from detention has continued to elicit reactions from senior lawyers.
Although some lawyers have expressed concern that the judgement was a setback to criminal justice administration, one of his lawyers, Awa Kalu (SAN), said Kalu was a free man, saying:
There is no basis to continue to hold Kalu in custody.
The natural consequence of the judgment of the Supreme Court is that in the eyes of the law he was never convicted.
In the meantime, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said the judgment of the Supreme Court nullifying Section 396(7) was a setback and a disservice to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) signed in 2015, saying that no section of the Nigerian Constitution (1999) barred a judge elevated to a higher court from returning to conclude part-heard cases as in the case of Kalu.