Justice Daniel Longji of the Plateau State High Court, Jos has admitted the confessional statement made by a former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC in the course of investigating allegations that he diverted to personal use about N6.2billion state fund shortly before the end of his tenure.
Jang is facing a 12-count charge alongside Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government.
At the resumed hearing, Tuesday, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, (SAN) presented Jang’s statement to the Court through the 11th prosecution witness, Musa Sunday.
In his evidence-in-chief, Sunday, an EFCC investigator told the Court that “in carrying out my duties as a detective, I interviewed Jang and obtained statements from him”.
The statement was thereafter identified by him and tendered by Jacobs as evidence against Jang.
Counsel for Jang, Benson Igbanoi, raised no objections and Justice Longji subsequently admitted it in evidence.
Sunday also told the Court that the EFCC’s investigation of Jang was necessitated by a petition received from the Civil Society Against Corruption, on June 9, 2014.
Copies of the said petition and the supporting documents substantiating the allegation were identified by Sunday, as Jacobs sought to tender them in evidence against Jang.
However, Igbanoi raised objections arguing that, “the documents tendered being public documents need to be certified”.
Countering his argument, Jacobs emphasised that the documents were addressed to the EFCC and “therefore, EFCC has powers to tender them being in possession of the original, which is valid in the Court of Law”.
Consequently, the trial judge overruled the objection, noting that: “an investigating officer is a special witness and has the rights to tender documents in line with his submissions.”
Justice Longji thus admitted the documents and marked them as Exhibit 54 and Exhibit 55.
Further in the course of proceedings, the Court admitted as Exhibits P56, P57 and P58, the account statements of Jang with Zenith Bank, FCMB and Standard Chartered Bank, which indicated suspicious transactions from the Plateau State account with Zenith Bank into Plateau Project One, withdrawn by Pam, upon approval by Jang. Investigations also revealed that the funds, which were approved for the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, were never so utilised, with teachers’ salaries pending for more than 10 months.
Forensic analysis of the accounts also showed cash lodgements of $10,000, sometimes more than $100,000 daily. The lodgements were found to have been made by Pam and Jang’s first son, Yakubu.
Additional documents including letters from Plateau State House of Assembly, Attorney General and Central Bank of Nigeria, were also tendered through the witness as evidence.
But the defence counsel raised objection on the grounds of “fair hearing on additional evidence” and “direct or personal interest”.
In response, Jacobs stressed that the fundamental issue “is to establish whether the maker of the said documents have any personal interest in the matter”.
Citing Section 212 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015, he argued that “artificial evidences can be received in addition to previous ones tendered”.
Justice Longji, however, reserved ruling on the admissibility of the additional documents till July 24, 2019.
The trial judge also ruled that a trial within trial will commence on July 24, 2019 after counsel for Pam, D.P. Dusu, raised objection to the admissibility of the confessional statement he made to Sunday in the course of investigations.
Dusu argued that his client made the statements “under duress, suffering trauma psychologically”.
“I am interested to know in details what the defendant means by duress and psychological damage while rendering a statement in the custody of EFCC,” the trial judge held.