By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Jos — A Plateau State High Court sitting in Jos has ruled that the disputed statements obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the ongoing trial involving a former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, and a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Yusuf Pam, were not voluntary and, therefore, cannot be tendered as evidence in court.
Former Governor Jang and Pam are standing trial over the alleged misappropriation of public funds amounting to over N6.3 billion
Justice Christy Dabup, who gave the ruling, yesterday, at the conclusion of the trial-within-trial rejected the EFCC’s claim that the statements were voluntary.
It would be recalled that the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Williams, SAN, had called a witness, Sunday Musa, an investigator with EFCC, to testify and Musa told the court how Pam, the second defendant, withdrew cash running into millions of naira and handed it over to the former governor and 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 a loan in 2015 for disbursement to medium and small scale enterprises but which was not done.
When the EFCC’s counsel sought to tender the statements that the commission obtained from the second defendant, Pam, as an 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 could not be admissible in court.
This development prompted the court to order a trial-within-trial to determine whether the statements were voluntarily given or not.
In her ruling, after listening to arguments from all parties, Justice Dabup said: “The court has considered all the arguments and evidence before it during the trial within trial. The prosecution must prove that the statements were made voluntarily.
“For a confessional statement to be admitted in court, it must be proven to be voluntary. The statements were not recorded or videoed. 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.
“Non compliance with administrative criminal justice will affect the admissibility of the confessional statements. The court observed the demeanour of the witnesses. Witnesses were evasive during the cross-examination.”