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Disqualification: Court gives senior lawyer 7-days ultimatum in Orji Uzor Kalu’s alleged N7.1bn fraud trial

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The Federal High Court Abuja on Friday issued a seven-day ultimatum to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Rotimi Jacobs, to show cause why he should not be disqualified from further prosecuting former Abia governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

Kalu, who is serving as a senator, is standing trial on allegations of mismanaging funds belonging to Abia government to the tune of N7.1 billion during his tenure as governor from 1999 to 2007.

He was tried alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia Government House during Kalu’s tenure.

At Friday’s sitting, the court ordered Jacobs to file a motion on notice within seven days to show cause why he should be allowed to continue to prosecute Kalu.

The judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo was delivering a ruling on a motion filed by the senior lawyer’s chambers seeking a transfer of Kalu’s trial to the Lagos State division of the court.

Justice Ekwo held that Jacobs and his team had engaged in gross abuse of court process in the way and manner they were prosecuting the case.

The judge ruled that the motion on notice would be adopted on Oct. 31 during which the court would determine the fate of the senior lawyer, one way or the other.

Meanwhile, the judge dismissed the request to transfer the trial to Lagos.

He said his refusal was on the grounds that only the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho could take such a decision as provided by Section 98 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

“There is no doubt that the provision of Section 98(1) of the ACJA, 2015 gives the Chief Judge discretion on transfer of criminal cases. I will not venture into how discretion is to be exercised in our jurisprudence as that has been adequately propounded in the respective written addresses in this case.”

According to the judge, it is my opinion that this application packs merit and I make an order dismissing same.

Justice Ekwo recalled that the prosecution had written twice to the Chief Judge requesting for the transfer of the case and the request was declined.

He said the counsel ought to abide by the decision of the court.

The judge added that there ought to be consequences for such and application that had affected the actual time of proceedings on the substantive matter which order was given since May 2020.

“The learned counsel for the prosecution is hereby ordered to give reasons within 7 days of this order, to this court why an order ought to be made disqualifying him from handling this matter henceforth.

”The Court will make further orders concerning the re-trial once the issue of the prosecution is determined,” the judge said.

The judge, however, held that the prosecution was at liberty to go back to the Supreme Court to seek a review of the order that remitted the trial back to the Federal High Court.

He subsequently adjourned the matter until Oct. 31 for Jacobs to show cause.

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Wandoo Sombo

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