By Peter Eze
The reports of Dr Orji Uzor Kalu’s trial by now have swept through the ears of the ardent followers of the Nigerian news. One of the remarkable takeaways from the trial was the court’s recent action during the hearing of the case on Monday. The Federal High Court under the jurisdiction of Justice Mohammed Idris revoked the bail granted to the former governor following his failure to appear before the court.
Dr Kalu has travelled for an emergency surgical operation at a hospital in Wiesbaden Germany. According to comprehensive medical report dated 5th November 2018, which was also received by the Federal High court, Ikoyi, Kalu requires between 10 and 12 weeks to fully recover from the operation he underwent. It is also on record that Kalu duly informed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through a letter directly written to its acting chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu before embarking on the medical trip. The EFCC prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs during the hearing on Monday also confirmed Kalu’s letter.
Meanwhile prior to Kalu’s travel, the matter was on indefinite adjournment. It was therefore very shocking that few days after the disturbing news of Kalu’s deteriorating health condition rented the air, coupled with rumors of him being in a state of coma in the German hospital , the federal high court served his lawyers a fresh notice of re-arraignment the following week. This kind of suspicious act challenges the faith and confidence in the judicial process.
One could only imagine the event that transpired in Kalu’s life within the seven days court notice. Should he disregard the neurosurgeon’s advice and endanger his own life or attend the court summon to fulfill his civic duty? Obviously, the speedy revisit of an indefinitely adjourned case with very short notice sounds questionable. The very short notice technically portrays Justice Idris’ act as if Kalu’s case is a company in which he owns a share. A lot of people may not know how the judicial system works and the legal position on the absence in court due to personal emergencies. We do not need to wait until we are in it. We think we’re in a democratic society protected by the constitution, rights and privileges. We think we’re run by rules. We think we are entitled to right to life as enshrined by the constitution. But in reality they are not being upheld by our judiciary. Our thoughts may be hallucinations.
I have heard and read several cases where defendants not only refused to appear in the court but treated court orders and proceedings with total contempt and disregard. In Kalu’s case, it is entirely different. He has been in the forefront of radical reform in judiciary and has always professed his stand on the rule of law. In his personal capacity, Kalu has supported and bankrolled many NBA activities held in Abia, Lagos and Abuja. These actions of him were strictly informed by the need to strengthen the judiciary considering its role in the nation building.
Dr Kalu has also shown exemplary commitment to his trial since it was instituted in 2007. Not until his current health status, over which he has no control, Kalu has always attended all court proceedings. He has always presented himself to the court notwithstanding any of his engagements.
On many occasions when quizzed by newsmen on the trial, Kalu has made it known that the corruption charge allegedly leveled against him is simply a vendetta and it’s politically motivated. What is even Kalu’s original sin in all this noise of alleged diversion of 3.2 billion naira? He has a strong business background and all his wealth before becoming a governor is traceable. He also has an exceptional and philanthropic global identity. Kalu’s continuous position in his case has always been same; he is an ardent believer in the rule of law and he is ever ready to play by the rules so long there is no external interference. He believes that the rule of law should be applicable to all and sundry irrespective of social, political and economic status. Once, during a national event, Kalu had stated that “the law is a respecter of nobody and until the system gives the rule of law its rightful place, no meaningful development will be achieved”. So, Kalu is interested in justice over this fabricated allegation even more than the prosecutor.
It is clear that throughout this litigation process, Kalu has shown absolute obedience to the court, but the same court has shown him hostility and judicial bully by treating him as if his life does not matter. The court acknowledged that Kalu is entitled to and has a right to life; has a right to seek medical treatment within and outside the shores of Nigeria. In addition the court said this right is further guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But the acknowledgement was more hypocritical than anything else since it failed to practice what it professed.
A meticulous observation in the ruling on Monday seemed like a first step toward compromise. But I still want to believe the judge to be a person who respects and comply with the law and who acts at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Otherwise, he would be required to step away when it becomes evident there is unflinching bias or other impropriety in this case. After all, some unproductive politicians envious of Kalu’s success in all areas of life were recently thanking the honorable judge for revoking the former governor’s bail. It was also quoted by unreliable sources of how these enemies of progress device different manipulative means to reach the honorable Justice. The intention is to pressure him into cowing into an expedient kangaroo judgment against Kalu.
The honorable Justice must be reminded that a judge is always obligated to retain the general atmosphere of impartiality required of a fair trial and must not-under any circumstances-become sympathetic to a party’s unholy appeal. Fairness is the helm of judiciary practice and so every case that passes through the needle of the legal system must be executed with the highest level of fairness, at least this is our hope. God bless Nigeria!