From Gyang Bere, Jos
Plateau State High Court, Judge Justice Christy Dabup, yesterday, ruled that the disputed statements obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the ongoing trial involving a former governor of the state, Jonah Jang, were not voluntary and, therefore, cannot be tendered as evidence in court.
Justice Dabup, who gave the ruling yesterday at the conclusion of the trial-within-trial, after taking arguments from lawyers to the parties, rejected the EFCC claim that the statements were voluntary.
Jang, who served as governor of Plateau state between 2007 and 2015, is standing trial alongside Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government over an alleged misappropriation of public funds amounting to over N6.3 billion.
Before the ruling by the court yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Williams, SAN, had called a witness, Sunday Musa, to testify.
An investigator with the EFCC, Musa, had told the court how Yusuf Pam, the second defendant, withdrew cash running into millions of naira and handed it over to the former governor.
He claimed that their investigation revealed that the money was part of the N2 billion which the Central Bank of Nigeria gave to the state government as loan in 2015 for disbursement to medium and small scale enterprises, but which was not done.
But when the EFCC counsel sought to tender the statements, which the commission obtained from the second defendant, Pam, as exhibit through Musa, Pam’s counsel, S. Oyawole, raised an objection and argued that the said statements were obtained under duress from his client and, therefore, inadmissible in court.
The development had prompted the court to order a trial-within-trial to determine whether the statements were voluntarily given.
The prosecution witness admitted that none was present except the team of investigators when the confessional statements were obtained. The second defendant wanted his lawyers present, but they did not oblige him.
The case, which is ongoing, is expected to continue today.