Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) has expressed his opinion on the Supreme Court judgment of May 18 which nullified the trial and conviction of a former Governor of Abia State Orji Kalu, and Ude Jones Udeogu, a former Director of Finance in Abia State Government for N7.1bn fraud.
Udeogu and Orji Uzor Kalu have been sentenced to 10 and 12 years in jail respectively on the 5th of December, 2019.
The new supreme court ruling has nullified Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which was employed by the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa (retd) to issue a fiat to Justice Mohammed Idris, who was elevated to the higher bench in June 2018 to return to the Federal High Court to conclude the case.
A full panel of seven justices of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour in nullifying Section 396(7) of ACJA, held that it was unconstitutional for a judge to appear to be wearing the caps of two courts of different hierarchies at the same time.
Sagay, however, insisted that the nullified Section 396 (7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which allowed elevated judges to conclude cases, was a major success of the National Assembly against public corruption. He said that the ACJA provision is inconsistent with Section 253 of the 1999 Constitution, which provides that “the Federal High Court shall be duly constituted, if it consists of, at least, one judge of that court”.
The eminent professor said;
“There is absolutely no reference in the constitution to the position of a promoted judge going back to the High Court to complete a 90 percent heard corruption case to enable litigation to come to an end.
“The provision in Section 253 is simply intended to establish that, unlike the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, a High Court can be constituted by a single judge. No more no less.
“How can the highest court of the land spring out a technicality to inflict such a terrible wound on our criminal justice system?
“Should the Supreme Court not be using all its knowledge, power and authority to ensure that looters of public funds are brought to justice?
“What message was the court sending out to the Nigerian public and the world by employing a technicality to save those convicted of financial crimes against the nation and people of Nigeria?
“This decision is contrary to the mission of the Supreme Court in Nigeria. It has clearly led to injustice.
“It flies in the face of what the court stands for and is in direct conflict with the position of the great Justices of this very Supreme Court in an era now nostalgically referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Supreme Court.
“At the high level of the Supreme Court, against whose judgments there can be no appeal, it is mandatory that the Justices must consider the consequences and impact of their judgments, in order to avoid public injury, and sending the wrong message to potential violators of critical social norms.
“It is alright for a lawyer fresh from the Law School or a young, newly appointed judge to indulge in 2 + 2 equals 4 types of judgment.
“As he gains experience and progresses up the ladder of authority, he must add the norms and values of society to his judgments.
“At that level, a judgment must be based on justice, merit, not on technicalities.
“All the legal justifications adduced for this shocking decision hold no water.”
This is coming after Orji Uzor Kalu hired a 12-man team of lawyers including six Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), to secure his release from prison. Read the news as reported by adahzionblog here