Rejoinder to Premium Times article titled “Why we’re yet to re-arraign Orji Kalu – EFCC” By Kunle Sanni October 5, 2020
By Dr. Johnson Greg, Lagos, October 6, 2020
The Premium Times’ article above referenced is simply an unabashed distortion of public record aimed at supporting predetermined conclusions of the Premium Times’ journalist. The article falsely claims that the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its May 8, 2020 judgment ordered that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu be retried. However, on the contrary, the Supreme Court did not make any such order. Instead, the apex court was very specific in the language of its order and the reassignment of the case on appeal and retrial thereof were as regards to “the Appellant” (not Orji Uzor Kalu, who was never an Appellant on that appeal) and “the Second Defendant” in the case at trial, (which was not Orji Uzor Kalu).
Indeed, the Supreme judgment, did not refer to Orji Uzor Kalu in its language or proceedings. Orji Uzor Kalu is simply one of many Nigerians who benefited from a Supreme Court judgment that declared the true position of the law as regards certain important provisions of the Constitution, which in that came to the conclusion that Orji Uzor was among several Nigerians wrongly convicted by courts that lacked jurisdiction to try them. It is unfortunate that Premium Times that claims to be staffed by competent journalists would so blatantly misstate obvious judicial facts.
For a full perspective on the matter, a person can only be convicted in accordance with the Constitution and the laws, and by a court of competent jurisdiction. Any purported conviction by any court that lacks jurisdiction to try the case amounts to nothing. It is no different than an outcome of a trial by any idler on the street. So any purported conviction of Orji Uzor Kalu by Justice Mohammed Idris amounted to nothing as far as the legal meaning and consequences of a conviction go. The failure of Premium Times yo realize this basic logic is tendentious and quite troubling. Implying, however so remotely, that Senator Orji was duly tried and convicted is plain journalistic blackmail. We expected much better from Premium Times.
Further, it is the basic function of the Supreme Court to declare the position of the law, ie, what the law means or the intendment of the law. Also, the Supreme Court has the second function of resolving any legal controversy presented to it. This means that there is no room to speculate on an alternative position of the law to that declared by the Supreme Court. The Nigerian Supreme Court performed both functions on May 8, 2020 in respect of the appeal filed by one Mr. Jones Udeogu. It is a pleasure to remind Premium Times that on that appeal, the apex Court determined that Justice Mohammed Idris lacked the authority to precise in judgment over the case in which Senator Kalu was purportedly convicted. The Supreme Court judgment connotes that the judgment of Justice Idris amounted to an exercise in futility. Premium Times’ article failed to acknowledge that basic truth.
To show an alarming selectivity and partiality in its analysis of the Supreme Court judgment, the Premium Times’ article in question pointed out that the Supreme Court did not order the release of Orji Uzor Kalu, and that it took additional proceedings before Justice Liman of the Federal High Court in Lagos for Kalu to be released. That is lying by telling the truth halfway. The Supreme Court did not order the release of Kalu because Kalu was not a party to the appeal under consideration and the Supreme felt it had no basis to make any order (whether to release or to retry) specific to Kalu. Therefore, suggesting that the Supreme ordered a retrial of Kalu is totally incorrect. Even a rushed or casual reading of the Supreme Court judgment would not lead anyone to the conclusions expressed or insinuated by the Premium Times’ article. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu does not face any lingering or decidual jeopardy on the basis of the indictment the EFCC once initiated against him.
Orji Uzor Kalu was released from detention on June 5, 2020 because of an outcome of proceedings conducted by Justice Liman, who found that there was no legal basis (no valid trial or conviction) to justify the incarceration of Kalu. The EFCC duly participated in the proceedings before Justice Liman. The EFCC did not raise any issue before Justice Liman to attempt to preserve any right to retry Orji Uzor Kalu. To suggest that in the circumstances a person could be prosecuted twice on the same indictment will amount to toying with the Constitution.
What are then the options of the EFCC? It is not in the place of this writer to advise the Commission on what to do. However, one expects that the Commission will respect the laws of the land, including the judgments of the courts. And one doubts seriously that any staff of the Commission made the statements attribute to them in the Premium times’ article, as such statements do not reflect any procedure known to Nigerian law.