Kalu challenges transfer of case to Lagos, says EFCC wants to convict him at all costs
A former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu, has challenged the transfer of a suit No FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07 filed against him and two others by the Federal Government.
Kalu, in a letter through his counsel, Amobi Nzelu, dated October 15 and addressed to the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, noted that the Commission without his knowledge or his counsel requested for the transfer of the case to Lagos.
The copies of the letter were sent to the Attorney General of the Federation and Hon. Chief Judge, Federal High Court.
“There is no justification legally, morally or otherwise for the said transfer if not to secure conviction at all cost and put him into avoidable expenses of moving his defence team to Lagos whenever the case comes up.
“It is also worthy to note that before the said transfer, politicians in Abia
State and its environs had predicted at various fora that this matter will be transferred to Lagos where conviction will be secured at all cost,” the former governor stated.
He further noted that the case had resumed before the Justice Anuli Chikere of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court where plea had been taken at the last adjourned date and definite hearing fixed for December 6, 7 and 8.
The letter reads in part, “Our clients alongside others were arraigned before a Federal High Court, Abuja in 2007. Following rulings which did not go down well with our client, he appealed alongside others up to the Supreme Court via Court of Appeal. The matter was remitted back to the Federal High Court in 2016 by the Supreme Court for trial. The matter was assigned by the Hon. Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to Hon. Justice Anuli Chikere. At the last adjourned date, plea was taken and matter adjourned to the 6, 7 and 8 of December 2016 of definite hearing.
“Both parties departed the court with a view to come back and commence trial on the agreed dates. Surprisingly and behind the back of our client and his defence team, your Commission applied to the Hon. Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for the case to be transferred to Lagos Judicial Division of the Federal High Court”.
He further noted that the Commission never raised the issue of transfer when the case was remitted to the Federal High Court for trial.
According to him, “it is evidently clear that your Commission went into deep slumber and suddenly woke up to shop for forum convenience. What must have justified this sudden transfer is not far-fetched. Your Commission went for a shopping bonanza and arrived at the residence of “forum convenience”, hence this request for the transfer to Lagos.
“To secure conviction at all cost is inimical to our criminal jurisprudence and must not be encouraged. For good nine years, it never dawned on your Commission to seek for a transfer until dates have been given by the trial court for definite hearing. To seek for transfer in a matter when both parties have agreed to dates for definite hearing is nothing short of undue interference in the administration of justice.
“The greatest human instinct is self-preservation hence this protest on
behalf of our client and the defence team over this transfer. In the defence team of our client are five Senior Advocates of Nigeria namely: Awa Kalu SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, Solomon Akuma SAN, Nwufo SAN, Chief Gordi Uche SAN and my humble self. All of us are resident here in Abuja.
“Our client who after eight years as Executive Governor of Abia State retired into private quiet life in his village Igbere in Abia State was forced to relocate to Abuja for this trial. Suddenly, the trial is now being transferred to Lagos. One may ask for what purpose? The answer is simple: to secure conviction at all cost.
“The day an ordinary man is made to understand that he can no longer get justice or he is being persecuted and not prosecuted, that day will signal a warning shot for chaos, anarchy and civil disobedience better imagined than experienced.”
He submitted that the no justification legally, morally or otherwise for the said transfer if not to secure conviction at all cost and put him into avoidable expenses of moving his defence team to Lagos whenever the case comes up.
He, however, requested that the matter be returned to Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court before the judge who has given definite dates for hearing.
Kalu added that if such is acceptable, then another judge in the Abuja division of the court should be assigned to hear the matter.
In the alternative, he requested that the matter be transferred to Umuahia where the cause of action arose.
The Federal Government had in 2007 arraigned Kalu and after his bail application was argued, he was consequently admitted to bail.
Following the interlocutory application and the appeals arising, the matter went up to the Supreme Court and the sit was later remitted back to the Federal High Court earlier this year.