The trial of a former Governor of Plateau State and the immediate past Senator, who represented Plateau North, Jonah Jang continued in Jos with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC Prosecution witness, Taiwo Olorunyomi, informing the court that all the evidence he tabled before it against the former governor was based on what some people told him.
It would be recalled that Senator Jang and Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Plateau State Government House during Jang’s administration, were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on a 12-count charge, bothering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N6.3 billion, an act contrary to, and punishable under Sections 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2011, as amended.
Both Jang and Pam have since pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Olorunyomi, an investigator with the ICPC informed the court in response to Counsel to Senator Jang, Mike Ozekhome, (SAN) who was cross-examining him; that, “My lord, throughout our investigation, I did not find any money in Jang’s personal account neither did I witness any money being handed over to him. But I was told that the money was withdrawn and taken to the Governor in his office.”
The prosecution witness had earlier told the court that the former governor contravened the ICPC act when he allegedly spent the sum of N2 billion of the state fund he received from the CBN on other projects other than its original purpose meant for the disbursement to Medium and Small Scale Enterprise Agency of the state.
The EFCC witness also claimed that Jang breached the law establishing ICPC, when he borrowed money from the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) without approval by the state House of Assembly.
When asked if the law establishing the ICPC also empowers it to dictate to states which project to embark or how the money was to be used, the ICPC witness answered “No”.
When he was further asked if he was aware of the existence of a law in Plateau State which permits internal and external borrowing by government, the ICPC witness said he was aware.
After the cross examination, Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs called another witness, Jonah Kabong, a civil servant from the office of the Secretary to the State Government to testify in the case.
Jacobs sought to tender before the court two classified documents containing the minutes of the State Security Council meeting and that of the State Executive Council, but the move was objected to by the Defense Counsel, Mike Ozekhome who argued that the Prosecution Counsel failed to meet the criteria necessary before tendering the documents.
According to him, “the official secret act does not permit the disclosure of classified government document to members of the public without authorization by heads of such government agency, ministries or parastatal who must personally give approval for their release.
Ozekhome, who cited several authorities to buttress his argument, pointed out that even if the approval is given, the law allows only the judge to have access to the information which isn’t to be delivered to him in his chambers because of the sensitive nature of the material.
His argument was supported by Counsel to the 2nd Defendant, Sunday Odey who added that it is in the interest of the EFCC counsel not to violate the official secret act as the law also prescribed punishment for offenders.
However, the EFCC Prosecution Counsel, Jacobs rejected their submission and insisted that the legal authorities, which they cited regarding the official secret act only applies to the federal government and not the state government.
He urged the court to accept the documents as exhibits because of their relevance to the case.
Meantime, after listening to arguments by both Counsels, which bordered on the admissibility or otherwise of the two documents, Justice Daniel Longji adjourned the case to 27th June, 2019, for ruling and continuation of the matter.