Former Abia State governor Orji Uzor Kalu has returned to his position as the chief whip of the Nigerian Senate after spending six months in the facility of the Nigerian Correctional Centre.
“I want to welcome back our one and only chief whip of the senate and indeed the national assembly. Chief whip you are welcome, we are very grateful to the Almighty God for his blessings,” Senate president Ahmad Lawan said during Tuesday’s plenary.
Kalu is attending his first plenary as a Senator after he was released from prison.
The federal high court in Lagos in December 2019 sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment after being found guilty on all the 39-count charges brought against him.
He was convicted of N7.65 billion fraud perpetuated when he was Abia State governor between 1999 and 2007.
Kalu was convicted alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and his former Abia State director of finance, Ude Udeogu.
The court also ordered the forfeiture of all assets of his company to the federal government.
Justice Mohammed Idris, who delivered the sentence, had earlier declared him guilty of the charge in the case that had been on for 12 years.
In an amended 39-counts-charge, they were accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of conspiring and diverting over N7 billion from the coffers of the state.
However, the Supreme Court in May nullified Kalu’s conviction on the grounds that Mohammed Idris, the trial judge, did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter since he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Kalu left the prison in June after six months of incarceration. His seat was not declared vacant by the Senate leadership while he was in prison.
Reacting to the calls on the leadership of the Senate to declare his seat vacant, spokesperson of the Senate, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, said it was not constitutional.
“The Senate has no reason to declare his seat vacant. This is not the first time that such a thing would happen,” Akwashiki told journalists in December.
“There is no provision in the constitution that says the seat of any senator facing prosecution or convicted at a lower court should be declared vacant.”
He said such a request would only be considered after Kalu had explored all the legal options available to him without success.
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