Leading civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has carpeted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) latest round of forum shopping and targeted political persecution of the most senior South Eastern Political office holder in the current dispensation –the chief whip of the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
HURIWA said it is inconceivable that the anti-graft agency will devote a lot of man-hour and resources chasing shadows because it has a preconceived political agenda to demarket the most influential political leader of the National ruling party who is a pole’s position to clinching the prestigious Presidential flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress in a sinister plots to deny the Igbo religion of the historic opportunity of becoming an executive President of a United Nigeria.
“The latest application made by the EFCC praying the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to transfer the fresh trial of former Abia State governor over alleged N 7.1 billion fraud to Lagos State smacks of desperate forum shopping by an agency that is so much in a dead hurry to politically harass the chief whip of the senate to quit his presidential aspiration in favour of the political Godfather of some powerful forces embedded within the hierarchy of the EFCC”.
HURIWA also tasked the EFCC to tell Nigerians What the logic is in seeking to transfer the trial of a matter alleged to have happened in Abia State, South East of Nigeria to Lagos State as if the South East has become the outpost of the South West of Nigeria? This is provocative as well as vexatious.”
“We in the civil Rights Community hereby condemns the hierarchy of the EFCC for the undue interest and desperation to terminate the political rise of a phenomenal political leader who had previously been cleared by the nation’s apex court of having anything to do with this politically coordinated and calculated persecution to rubbish the presidential ambition of the most prospective candidate of Igbo origin”.
HURIWA recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC on Thursday last week asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to transfer to its Lagos division, the fresh trial of former Abia State Governor, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and two others in an alleged 7.1 billion naira fraud.
The motion on notice seeking the transfer was brought pursuant to sections 18, 19, 22 and 45 of the Federal High Court Act 2010 and section 93 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The motion prayed for an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja, transferring the case with charge number FHC/ABJ/CR/56/2007 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Orji Uzor Kalu and two others to the Lagos division of the court.
Two others on the motion paper are Jones Udeogo and Sloks Nigeria Limited, an alleged family company of Senator Kalu.
Oluwaleke Atolagbe, counsel to EFCC said the motion was predicated on 5 grounds among which are that the Abuja division of the Federal High Court lacked the requisite territorial jurisdiction to entertain and try the defendants in the instant charge.
Another ground for seeking transfer of the trial was that the charge was preferred against Orji Uzor Kalu, Slok Nigeria Limited and Ude Jones Udeogu at the Federal High Court Abuja sometime in number 2007 by the EFCC, following an investigation by the commission.
The motion further indicated that after taking their plea, the defendant brought an application challenging the competence of the charge and contending that there was no prima facie case against them.
It was also contended that following the decision of the Supreme Court that many of the ingredients of the offences against them occurred in Lagos and even most of the witnesses who are bank workers reside in Lagos, the EFCC applied to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to transfer the matter to Lagos.
Satisfied that many of the ingredients of the offences occurred in Lagos the Chief Judge transferred the case to the Lagos division of the court where the defendants were prosecuted and judgment delivered in the matter.
He, therefore, asked Justice Ekwo to issue an order transferring the trial to Lagos in compliance with the Supreme Court order.
When the matter came on Thursday, Justice Inyang Ekwo said that he would not be able to take the application in view of the approaching Easter holidays.
The Judge consequently fixed May 17, 2022 for determination of the application.
At the proceedings, Prof. Awa Kalu SAN stood for former governor Kalu, Mr Solo Akuma SAN stood for Jones Udeogu while Goddy Uche SAN, stood for Slok Nigeria Limited.
HURIWA said it was worried that the EFCC is seeking to prosecute the Chief whip of the senate twice over the same matter in which a Judge who got elevated to the Court of Appeal chose to hang on as a Federal High Court judge and ended up passing a preconceived verdict against the former governor of Abia State senator Orji Uzor Kalu- a judgment that was torn into shreds by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.