The Supreme Court on Friday nullified the conviction of a former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor-Kalu, who had been jailed for corruption.
The court also quashed the conviction of Ude Udeogu, who was the director of finance and accounts at the Abia State Government House during Mr Kalu’s tenure.
Justice Mohammed Idris had on December 5, 2019 sentenced the former governor to 12 years in prison for allegedly stealing public funds while in office. Mr Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
A third defendant, Mr Kalu’s company, Slok Nigeria Limited, was ordered to be wound up and its assets forfeited to the Nigerian government.
They were convicted for defrauding the Government of Abia State when Mr Kalu was governor.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had brought the criminal charge against the duo for conspiring and diverting N7.65 billion from the coffers of the state.
Dissatisfied with the judgement of the Federal High Court, Mr Kalu and Mr Udeogu filed an appeal to challenge their sentencing at the apex court.
Delivering judgement on Friday, a seven-member panel of the apex court in a unanimous decision set aside the judgement of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos which convicted and sentenced Messrs Kalu and Udeogu.
The apex court’s judgement delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko, declared the conviction of the appellants as null and void on the ground that Mr Idris was already a Justice of the Court of Appeal as at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing the appellants.
Justice Eko further held that a Justice of the Court of Appeal cannot operate as a judge of the Federal High Court.
The apex court further ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the case for trial.