Dissatisfied with the ruling of a Plateau State High Court which rejected a major exhibit against a former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) Mr Rotimi Jacob (SAN) has vowed to approach the Court of Appeal on them
Jacob disclosed this on Wednesday in Jos, Plateau State at the ongoing trial of Jang and a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government (OSSG), Yusuf Pam before Justice C. L. Dabup. The former governor and Pam are standing trial on an N6.2billion alleged fraud. They were first arraigned in June 2018, on 17-count charges bordering on misappropriation of funds and criminal breach of trust.
In a trial-within-trial, Pam had alleged that his statements made to the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) and prosecution witness 10, Sunday Musa, when he was arrested by the EFCC were made under duress. Musa had told the court that Pam confessed in his statements that he withdrew cash from the accounts of the state government in several millions of naira on the instructions of the governor, for sundry purposes. Musa also told the court how Jang used bankers to misappropriate funds belonging to the government.
However, Justice Dabup upheld the submissions of the defence counsel that Pam was harassed and made to offer his statements under duress. According to the Judge, the EFCC did not comply with the mode of taking statements, as provided in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Administration of Criminal Justice Act of Plateau State 2015, and that Pam was slapped before giving his statements.
Jacob said that the EFCC would exercise its right of appeal to challenge the decision of the court, believing that the Court of Appeal can consider the evidence of the prosecution and that of the second defendant to decide the matter differently.
Thereafter, the trial continued with the further cross-examination of Musa. The witness told the court that some of the money looted by Jang was illegally used to offset his loans taken in First City Monument Bank (FCMB). According to him, the loans were in three tranches: N80 million (Eighty Million Naira) only for the purchase of a house in Abuja, while N100 million was for the renovation of the property, and another N100 million was for meeting personal needs.
“My lord, the monies were paid through the first defendant’s Assistant Secretary, Raymond Unga in cash to the FCMB staff at different places and times,” he said.
When asked by the defence counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), whether he was physically present when the transactions took place, he said he wasn’t present but investigations revealed the transactions.
Musa was also asked whether the payment of N150 million requested by the then Permanent Secretary was for the security situation in the state. He denied this, stressing that the available security situation of the state did not show any need that would warrant the withdrawal of such an amount from the covers of the government. He further said that the security report of the state, at that time, is before the court as an exhibit. Musa said that the money was actually used by Jang to sponsor an election.
Counsel to the second defendant, S. Ogunleye also cross-examined Musa. He asked the prosecution witness whether the N10 million and N1million allegedly found in Pam’s account were from his farm proceeds and for the medical bill of his wife. Musa explained tha, Pam was a civil servant and could not have gotten such money from his salary. “He is a civil servant in Plateau State and his salary is not up to N100,000, so he can’t legitimately own the money. We asked him during the investigation, but he couldn’t tell us the source of the money”, he said.
Another witness, prosecution witness 12 (PW 12) Kichime Gideon Gonwalk, staff and former Relationship Manager of FCMB, Jos British branch, between 2012-2013, told the court that Jang had three accounts with the bank. One for his salary, another for savings and the third one was for a loan, where he obtained a facility. He also confirmed to the court that during that period, three loans were granted to the first defendant.
“The first, N80 million for house purchase in Abuja on 16th September 2009. The second and the third loans were to meet personal needs and obligations”, he said. He also told the court that the repayment of the loan was system-automated to the loan account where his salary, emoluments and allowances would be deducted automatically.
Gonwalk said that the loan repayment arrangement was not totally effective, as the bank observed a delay in the repayment schedule which prompted the bank to contact Jang. In view of this, he said Jang made a new arrangement through his personal secretary for the payment to be made as and when due.
“My lord, sometimes I go by myself to the Government House to collect the repayment, while at other times, our staff go there to collect the repayment in cash”, he said.
After the cross-examination, Justice Dabup adjourned the matter to 12th May 2022 for the continuation of the trial.