The trial within trial of Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, who is standing trial alongside Jonah Jang, a former Plateau State Governor for an alleged N6.2bn fraud commenced on Thursday with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), presenting two witnesses.
Testifying before Justice Daniel Longji of the Plateau State High Court, sitting in Jos, the first witness, Musa Sunday, who is an EFCC investigator, told the court that Pam was never at any time pressured to make his confessional statements and was never put under duress or psychological trauma.
Counsel for Pam, D.P. Dusu, had at the last sitting on July 23, 2019 raised objection to the admissibility of the sstatements he made to Sunday in the course of investigations, arguing that his client made the statements “under duress, suffering trauma psychologically”. The objection prompted the trial judge to order a trial within trial.
Led in evidence by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Sunday narrated how Pam was invited by the EFCC for interrogation as part of investigations into the alleged fraud.
He said: “Pam had made his first statement on January 16, 2017 in an open space office at the EFCC with other officers about 10 in number including the Unit Head, Babaginda Umar, Janet Justin, Simon Okom, among others, who were present carrying out various duties assigned to them.
“Pam was cautioned that he should be truthful and that anything he says will be used as evidence in a court of Law.
“In line with the investigation, Pam was asked relevant questions concerning the role he played in respect to the suspicious transactions, and he rendered the statements.
“Pam also gave all the details by himself between 11am and 5pm during which he was allowed to get refreshments and lunch.
“So I’m really shocked by his claims of duress.”
Additional statements, Sunday said, were made by Pam on 16th November 2017, 10th March 2018, 27th April 2018, 30th April 2018 and 3rd May 2018.
According to Sunday, Pam in the statements admitted to being the one that pays monies into Jang’s Zenith Bank account, and he tenders the deposit slips to him.
Sunday added that: “On April 27, 2018, Pam did not fulfill the conditions for bail which included that he provides two serving directors in any of the Federal Ministries or Agencies, who had landed properties in Abuja Municipal Area, supported with original Certificate of Occupancy as sureties and a bail bond of N20million.
“After six days, he was released discretionary to his lawyer, Christopher Eiche, following much plea.”
Subsequently, the bail condition document was tendered in evidence by Jacobs, and it was admitted by the Court as Exhibit PWT 1.
“Pam was never manhandled, slapped or coerced at any point to make his statement,” he stressed.
Afterwards, Jacobs called a second witness, Janet Justin, an operative at the Economic Governance Unit of the EFCC.
While being led in evidence by Jacobs, she reaffirmed that “EFCC officers are professionals and would never slap any one while rendering their statements.”
The Judge thereafter admitted the statements of Pam dated 16th January 2017, 16th November 2017, 10th March 2018, 27th April 2018, 30th April 2018 and 3rd May 2018 as PWT 2, PWT 3, PWT 4, PWT 5, PWT 6 and PWT 7 respectively, and adjourned to August 6 and 7, 2019 for the continuation of the trial within trial.
Earlier in the course of proceedings, Justice Longji overruled an objection raised by the counsel for Jang, Benson Igbanoi, challenging the admissibility of letters tendered by the EFCC from Plateau State House of Assembly dated July 19, 2019; Attorney General dated July 2019 and Central Bank of Nigeria dated March 2019 on the grounds of “fair hearing” and “personal interest”.
The trial Judge held that: “A hearing in a matter in a court cannot be said to be fair if a party is denied the right to be heard, hence how can documents tendered translate to fair hearing.
“The document sought to be tendered is for the purpose to be as evidence. In line with Section 83 (3) of the Evidence Act, the said documents were written upon request in the matter and does not hold any personal input.
“I have carefully considered the submissions of both counsel and I think the arguments of the defence in this matter is not substantial.
“I hereby mark the documents as Exhibit P62, P63 and P64 respectively.”