Anti-corruption CSOs condemns reversal of Orji Uzor Kalu sentence

By Lazarus Zakaa, Abuja

A coalition of over 100 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of Global Centre for Conscious Living Against Corruption (GLOCCLAC) has descended on the judiciary for what it described as monumental miscarriage of justice leading to the reversal of sentence earlier slammed on former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.

The coalition while addressing a media briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, stated through its Executive Director, Dr. Gabriel Nwambu and its Secretary General, Mallam Sadiq Malik that it is deeply worries at the serial antics perpetrated by some jailed politicians and ex-Governors who leverage on all possible windows to evade justice.

The coalition said such antics have brought disrepute and thereby undermined the genuine efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in bringing corrupt politicians to book irrespective of their political affiliation and amount of money stolen.

Part of the text of their address reads: “on the 7th of April 2020, the Supreme Court as the Apex Court in Nigeria nullified the trial of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, his firm, SLOK Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogu (an accomplice), a former Director of Finance and Accounts of Abia State Government and ordering their fresh trial at the lower court.

“The apex court based its verdict on the grounds that Justice Mohammed Idris, who convicted Kalu and others had been elevated to the Court of Appeal before the judgment and returned to the lower court to deliver the judgment which it considered as illegal.

“Although the EFCC had responded to this judgment in a letter signed by Dele Oyewale, Head, Media and Publicity on the 8th of May, 2020, stating that the anti graft agency considers the judgment of the apex court as ‘quite unfortunate’. He stated that it was a ‘technical ambush’ against the trial of the former Governor. He further stated ‘The commission is prepared for a fresh and immediate trial of the case because its evidences against Kalu and others are overwhelming. The entire prosecutorial machinery of the EFCC would be launched in a fresh trial where justice is bound to be served in due course’.

“Now, for us as coalition against corruption, the Centre had notified Nigerians on how in 2019, Mr. Orji Kalu lied to the court that he was admitted in a German hospital for a knee surgery, only for him to appear in a political campaign a few days later jumping up and down. This trial has been on for 13 years and yet the process has been reassigned for fresh trial”.

The coalition further expressed concerns at the plight of the administration of Criminal Justice System and how Kalu had relied on some windows to evade justice especially referring to a letter written by his counsel Gordy Uche (SAN) & Co. to the President, Court of Appeal on the 26th day of June, 2018 requesting for Hon. Justice M.B. Idris DCA, to conclude the part- heard trial.

GLOCLACC further wondered why other ex-Governors are in jail why Kalu who has allegedly stolen even more money (N7.65 Billion Naira) is now allowed to leave the likes of Jolly Nyame, Joshua Dariye amongst others behind bars.

“Could we rightly assert that there are some sacred cows close to the corridors of power in Nigeria who are above the law or are our corruption trials selective?

“This is a trial that would again test the strength of our Judiciary. Nigerians expect a more expedient and expeditious trial in line with the Criminal Justice Act of a matter of this magnitude which has taken 13 years depleting tax payers money n an economy that is already hemorrhaging.

“We wish to state clearly that any judgment that would acquit Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu or any ex- Governor or corrupt politician who has allegedly stolen or misappropriated public funds on technical grounds will not be accepted by our coalition and Nigerians in general.

“We urge the people of Abia state and indeed Nigerian citizens who are yearning for justice to remain calm while we follow events as it unfolds and update Nigerians accordingly”, GLOCLACC concluded.

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