The first time I saw news that the present chip whip of the senate will still be receiving his salary and benefits even when behind bars, I was very mad with anger and the question that came to my mind was that “what then is the purpose of his conviction in the law court” because I believe that once the law court has found you guilty of the crimes, you are instantly stripped of whatever ranks you possess and the rank of a common criminal is instantly pronounced on you so that should his case be different? Is it because he was sometimes a governor and presently a senator?
Then I took the time to look through the arguments and then understood what is really at stake, so let me clarify the issue here so that we can all understand it better.
Yes, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu had been convicted of converting the sum of N7.65 billion to his personal use and he was tried alongside the director of finance and accounts at the Abia State Government House during Mr. Kalu’s tenure as governor and had been sentenced to 12 years behind bar by the federal high court while his director of finance and accounts was sentenced to 10 years behind bar, but remember that according to the Nigeria constitution, you have the right to appeal the judgment of the federal high court, which is the main reason why we have the court of appeal.
So presently Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has filed his appeal at the court of appeal and so, therefore, cannot be stripped of his position and salary yet until the outcome from the court of appeal. Actually, this law applies to even the ordinary citizen of this country.
And even if the court of appeal upheld the judgment of the federal high court, he still another lifeline he can use, which is to take the case finally to the supreme court, but if the supreme court upheld the judgments of the two lower courts i.e the federal high court and the court of appeal, then can he be finally stripped of his position and salary and his seat will then be declared vacant by the senate. This is the normal procedure under the law for any citizen of Nigeria which he is also one.
So this is the main reason why the senate spokesman, Godiya Akwashiki disclosed that the embattled senator will continue to receive his salary and entitlement and his post will not be declared vacant until he had explored every available option under the law.
But a twist to this case is that it took the EFCC twelve good years to convict him in the federal high court and his sentence has started already, so if it took another twelve years to go through the appeal court and supreme courts, there will be no judgment for the supreme court to uphold and he will have received his full entitlements while delivering no service to the nation. This is a major area of concern that the lawmakers should look into speedily.