IT IS NOT OVER YET, for Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor of Nigerian southeast Abia State, who was convicted in December 2019, and serving 12 years jail sentence for alleged N7.1billion fraud, perpetuated during his tenure as governor of the state, between 1999 and 2007.  Convicted along with him were his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and a Director of Finance, Ude Udeogu.

Friday, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, led other justices of the supreme court, in a unanimous judgement, set aside Kalu’s sentence on grounds that Nigerian constitution does not permit a judge elevated to a higher court to return to a lower court to conclude a partly-heard case and delivered judgement on it.  The lead judgement was delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko.

Former President of Nigeria’s Courts of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa, had relied on the provision of section 396[7] of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, and directed Justice Idris, who had been elevated to the Court of Appeal, to return to Federal High Court, Lagos, to conclude the trial of Orji Uzor Kalu which began in 2007.  The supreme court declared that provision [396(7)] as unconstitutional.

The supreme court, accordingly, directed the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, to assign the case to another judge of the court for fresh trial of the case.

Kalu had challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, presided by Justice Idris, to sentence him, having been elevated as a judge of court of appeal.  Kalu’s objection was discountenanced, and Justice Idris went ahead with the case and sentenced him to 12 years in imprisonment.


Statement credited to Orji Kalu, after his release from Nigerian Correctional Services, Kuje, Abuja, said his prison custody, for the past four months, had taught him invaluable lessons about the country’s justice system. And reaffirmed his “belief and confidence in the country”.

“I must accord a special mention to the Justices of our Supreme Court for their unwavering commitment to rule of law. We all stand reminded of the consistent and strategic relevance of the Nigerian Supreme Court in holding this country together, even in moments of great peril. As far back as in the 1971 case of LAKANMI V. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION, (the Ademola Adetokunbo-led Court) the Nigerian Supreme Court has severally rescued this country from the precipice.

“My case is a true Nigerian story with a bold MADE-IN-NIGERIA stamp on it. It is a story of initial injustice that was caught and ultimately corrected. It is a story of restoration. It is a story of how a wrong was righted and how justice and truth prevailed in the end.

“I want to use this moment to thank my family, my colleagues, my friends, my supporters, the people of Abia State, and all Nigerians for their unflinching and unwavering confidence and trust in me through the very testing period. We all know today that their prayers have not been in vain,” Kalu said, in his statement.

He expressed gratitude to Nigerian Correctional Services for what he described as “unalloyed professionalism and sincere humanity extended to me by its staff while I was in their custody”.