Former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, has objected to the planned transfer of the criminal case against him and two others from Abuja division of the Federal High Court to Lagos.
He has applied to the court, via a motion, for among others, an order of mandamus compelling the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to prosecute the case in Abuja division of the court.
He has equally filed a motion exparte, through his lawyer, Awa Kalu (SAN) for leave of court to apply for the issuance of an order of mandamus compelling the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to return the case marked: No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07 (Federal Republic of Nigeria Vs. Orji Uzor Kalu & 2 others), which was transferred from the court’s Abuja division to Lagos, back to Abuja for continuation of trial.
Kalu also asked the court to direct that the leave so granted shall operate as a stay of all actions, matters or issues ancillary to or relating to the case, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
Kalu, his ex-aide, Jones Udeogo, and the former governor’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited were on September 27 this year rearraigned on a 34-count charge before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
They were, in an amended charge, accused of diverting about N3.2bn by the accused from the Abia State Government’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor of the state.
Justice Anwuri Chikere, before who they were arraigned, granted them bail and adjourned to December 6 for commencement of trial.
Kalu, in his fresh motion, said he was aware the case has been transferred to the Lagos division of the Federal High Court following a request by the prosecution.
Kalu stated, in a supporting affidavit, that the case against him and others was commenced in 2007 after he left office as Governor of Abia State, but that it suffered delay because parties went on appeal up to the Supreme Court. The case resumed on September 27.
He added that, due to the case brought against him by the EFCC, he temporarily relocated to Abuja to face trial alongside others charged with him.
He added that: “In 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that the case be returned to the Abuja division of the Federal High Court for trial.
“Acting in strict compliance with the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Chief judge of the Federal High court, Justice Ibrahim Auta [3rd respondent], assigned the case to justice Anuli Chikere for trial.
“It is the case of the applicant that all parties appeared before Justice Chikere on two occasions and the matter was adjourned due to pending appeal before the Supreme Court.
“On the third occasion, the court ordered that the defendant [Kalu] alongside others should take their plea which they did and were admitted on bail.
“The court alongside the prosecution and defence team agreed for three clear dates and the matter was adjourned to October 6, 7, and 8, 2016 for definite trial, thereafter, all the parties left the court to prepare for adjourned dates.
“Surprisingly and without consultation with other parties and defence team of the applicant, the EFCC [1st respondent] which is the prosecuting agency approached the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court [3rd respondent] and asked for a transfer of the case to Lagos judicial division of the Federal High Court.
“The 3rd respondent yielded to their request and transferred the matter to Lagos judicial division of the Federal High Court.
“Upon becoming aware that the 3rd respondent has transferred the case to Lagos judicial division of the Federal High Court, he petitioned the acting Chairman of the 1st respondent [EFCC], Ibrahim Magu, through one of his counsel, Amobi Nzelu.”