The President, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), has said the verdict of the Supreme Court ordering a fresh hearing of the N7.65bn fraud case involving a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, is below expectation.
According to him, the Supreme Court judgment is bereft of jurisprudential analysis and legal principles.
Akinseye-George, in an interview with our correspondent, said it was regrettable that the apex court Justices did not allow society’s interest to weigh on their mind, while ordering a fresh trial of the corruption case that took 12 years to conclude.
He said, “When an individual was found to have taken N7.65bn and you just threw away the case, just like that; you asked them to go back for a retrial – a retrial when witnesses, documents and so on are not easy to come by in our clime. I thought all these should have weighed on the mind of the court.
“And the judgment of the Supreme Court does not contain any jurisprudential analysis; there are no principles there; it is just like what a high court would do. The Supreme Court is more than that; the Supreme Court is a court of policy and jurisprudence; they are expected to develop the law. The law is what the Supreme Court says it is; so, it begs the question for them to say that we should go to the National Assembly.”
Akinseye-George, who was involved in the drafting of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, said the danger of going back to the National Assembly for an amendment was that the lawmakers might even whittle down the courageous provisions of the ACJA for self-protection.
He said, “Many of the people in the National Assembly are not even interested in progressive legislation. Of course, there are many good people there but you may not get the required majority because the National Assembly has so many retired governors who are not keen on legislative reform; they like the system; they want to preserve the status quo. So, why don’t we use the interpretative jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to do the right thing as they did in Inakoju and Adeleke?”
The professor said while materials were already being collated for possible amendments to the ACJA “the danger of going back (to the National Assembly) is that we are not sure of what the politicians will do. They can even whittle down many of the provisions. That is why are wary, unless there is a demand by the public.”
Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has said it is waiting on the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign Kalu’s case so that his fresh trial ordered by the Supreme Court can start.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told our correspondent that the anti-graft agency had already submitted an application to that effect.
Jacobs said, “We are not filing new charges. We have applied to the CJ to reassign the case in line with the decision of the Supreme Court. We have yet to see whether it has been assigned.”
Kalu had been convicted of the N7.65bn fraud last December and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment.
However, the Supreme Court overruled the conviction and prison sentence on the grounds that Justice Mohammed Idris, who gave the verdict, lacked jurisdiction to preside over the case as he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal and ceased to a judge of the Federal High Court as of when he delivered the judgment.
The Supreme Court ordered that the trial, which took 12 years to finish, should start all over again before another judge.
Consequently, Kalu, who had been in the prison custody since December last year when Justice Idris delivered the judgment, regained his freedom last week