By Joy Odor
Nigerian Law Reform Commission, NLRC, has thrown its weight behind the Supreme Court judgment quashing 12-year jail term slammed on Senator Orji Uzor Kalu by Justice Mohammed Idris on December 5, 2019.
Acting chairman of the commission, Professor Jummai Audi declared to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters that the judgment of the lower court against Senator Kalu was an absurdity on account of the justice who completed hearing and ruled on the case.
Prof. Audi, who made the declaration during her screening for the substantive chairmanship position of the commission on Wednesday in Abuja, said: “On the Orji Uzor Kalu’s case, I think it is an absurdity.
“The administration of criminal justice has to be amended because you can not say that a Judge, who by law has been appointed to a higher level should step down in order to decide a case and then caterpult himself up again to his normal position.
“We can read a lot of intention to that which is unconstitutional, undemocratic and unacceptable. Because it is not acceptable, the decision taken by that arrangement cannot stand.”
She added that since provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, relied upon for the judgement , cannot override that of the 1999 Constitution, it will have to be amended.
Virtually all the members of the committee like Senators James Manager (PDP Delta South), Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North) , Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North), Gabriel Suswam (PDP Benue North East) and Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia (APC Jigawa North), supported the submission by chorusing “you are well guided.”
It would be recalled that in his reaction to the Supreme Court judgment, the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay expressed displeasure over the apex court’s judgment nullifying the trial of Kalu, and others.
He said: “No section of the constitution prevented a judge, who was promoted to a higher court, from continuing to hear pending cases in the lower court.
“(But if) the National Assembly then passes a law that grants the authority to that judge, I think the Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to insist on its own interpretation by referring to the constitution, which has no such provisions.”