Plateau State High Court sitting in Jos, yesterday ruled that the disputed statements obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trial involving a former Governor of the State, Senator Jonah Jang were not voluntarily given and therefore, cannot be tendered as evidence in court.
Presiding Judge, Justice Christy Dabup gave the ruling in the conclusion of trial-within-trial after taking arguments from prosecuting and defense counsels, rejecting the EFCC claim that the statements were voluntarily given.
Jang, who governed the state from 2007 to 2015, is standing trial alongside a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Yusuf Pam over an alleged misappropriation of public fund amounting to over N6.3 billion
Before the ruling by the court yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN) had called a witness and investigator with the EFCC, Mr. Sunday Musa to testify.
Musa had told the court that Pam withdrew cash running into millions of naira and handed it over to Jang.
He claimed that their investigation revealed that the money was part of the N2 billion which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gave to the state government as loan in 2015 for disbursement to medium and small scale enterprises.
But when the EFCC counsel sought to tender the statements which the EFCC allegedly obtained from Pam through Musa, Pam’s counsel, Mr. 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 or given under duress.
Delivering her judgment after arguments by counsel to both parties, Justice Dabup said: “The court has considered all the arguments and evidences before it during the trial-within-trial.
“It is the duty of the prosecution to prove that the statements were made voluntarily. For a confessional statement to be admissible in court, it must be proven to be voluntary.
“The statements were not recorded or put in a video tape. Also, the prosecution witness admitted that no one when the confessional statements were obtained, except the team of investigators,” adding that Pam wanted his lawyers present but was not obliged.
“Non-compliance with administrative criminal justice will affect the admissibility of the confessional statements. Court observed the demeanour of the witnesses; witnesses were evasive during the cross examination.
“Slapping of the second defendant (Pam) while making statements appears to be credible; it appears to the court that the second defendant was more or less guided to make his statements rather than being left alone to make his confessional statements. Therefore, all issues are resolved in favour of the second defendant”, the Judge ruled.
The case is expected to continue today, having ruled on the trial-within-trial.