The former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from transferring his case from the Abuja Division of the court to Lagos.
Kalu is, therefore, seeking an order of mandamus compelling the EFCC and the Attorney General of the Federation to try him in the Abuja division of the court.
The applicant, in a motion ex parte brought pursuant to order 34 Rule 1 [a] and 3 of the Federal High Court (Civil procedure) rules, 2009; and section 6 [a] of the 1999 Constitution, sought the leave of court to apply for the issuance of an order of mandamus compelling the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to remit suit No. FHC/ABJ/CR/56/07- Federal Republic of Nigeria Vs. Orji Uzor Kalu & 2Ors, which was transferred from the Abuja division of the court to Lagos back to Abuja for continuation of hearing.
In the application filed through his legal team comprising Awa Kalu (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Solomon Akuma (SAN), Chief Nwufo (SAN) and Chief Gordy Uche (SAN), Kalu also asked for an order that the leave so granted shall operate as a stay of all actions, matters or issues ancillary to or relating to or pertaining to or connected with the case, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
Attached to the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/845/2016 is a supporting affidavit of 16 paragraphs and an affidavit of urgency deposed to by one Ikechukwu Njoku, a legal practitioner.
The deponent averred that the suit brought against the applicant was commenced in 2007 after he left office as Governor of Abia State.
He added that after office, the applicant did not contest any elective office because he wanted to retire to private life and quiet life in his village, Igbere in Abia State.
According to the deponent, “due to the case brought against him by the EFCC, he temporarily relocated to Abuja to face trial alongside others charged with him.
“After he entered his plea of not guilty to all the charges and was subsequently granted bail by the court, his trial was delayed by some interlocutory applications that travelled to the Supreme Court.
“That in 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that the case be returned to the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court for trial. “That acting in strict compliance with the judgement 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.”
The deponent further averred in the supporting affidavit that 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.
“That the court, alongside the prosecution and defence team, agreed for three clear dates and the matter was adjourned to December 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 (1strespondent) which is the prosecuting agency approached the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court (3rdrespondent) and asked for a transfer of the case to Lagos judicial division of the Federal High Court,” he averred.
The applicant further stated that the 3rd respondent yielded to their request and transferred the matter to Lagos judicial division of the Federal High Court. It is the deposition of the applicant that 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.
Furthermore, the applicant also submitted that he has been standing trial in the matter since 2007 and has never failed to appear in court on any of the adjourned dates and expressed his willingness to face his trial before any judge in Abuja or worst still in Umuahia where the offences were allegedly committed.
He contended that while the 2nd respondent (AGF) has constitutional powers to initiate, maintain and discontinue any criminal action in court, such powers cannot be used for persecution other than for prosecution.
He further argued that transferring a nine-yearold case from Abuja to Lagos is for persecution and not prosecution.
While accusing the prosecuting agency of engaging in forum shopping for a convenient court to convict him, he averred that he temporarily resides in Abuja and his team of lawyers resides in Abuja.