By Martha Nuhu
Jos – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday failed to bring witnesses to testify in the case of alleged misappropriation of state funds involving former Plateau Governor Jonah Jang.
EFCC had, on May 7, preferred a 12-count charge bordering on alleged corruption and misappropriation against Jang.
It alleged that Jang, who served as Plateau governor between 2007 and 2015, misappropriated N6 billion, two months to the end of his tenure as governor.
According to the charges, the former governor allegedly embezzled N4 billion from the state coffers through Mr Pam Yusuf, then a cashier in the office of the Secretary to the State Government.
The court, on May 24, adjourned the matter to July 17, 18 and 19 for definite and accelerated hearing.
At the resumed hearing of the matter before Justice Daniel Longji of Plateau High Court IV, its counsel, Mr Henry Ejiga, stated that the commission could not bring the witnesses “due to the security situation in Plateau”.
Ejiga prayed the court to adjourn the matter to another date to enable him bring the witnesses to court.
Counsel to Jang, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN), while responding, stated that criminal trials were expected to be “fast and speedy”, adding that justice delayed was justice denied.
He said that the reason given by the prosecution was very surprising.
“The reason given by the prosecution is very surprising. Security cannot be a good reason for not bringing the witnesses.
“If people like us that do not have security guards can come all the way from Lagos without problems, then it is wrong for the EFCC to use security as an excuse not to bring the witnesses to court.
“EFCC has the control of arms and ammunition; they say the red eagle will always catch up with you, how comes the eagle has stopped flying?
“It is appalling that the custodian of security is afraid of coming to court because of security issues. The court should not accept this flimsy excuse.
“We should have an affirmation statement by the prosecution that they would be ready at the next adjourned date,” he stated.
Responding, the prosecuting counsel said that the EFCC was not the Ministry of Defence, saying that its personnel were as vulnerable as any other Nigerian.
“We have good reasons to be afraid and careful because there were instances where witnesses have been gunned down while being conveyed to courts,” he claimed.
Ejiga said that the protection of witnesses was very paramount to the EFCC, and declared that the development was not a tactic to delay justice.
Longji, who frowned at the excuse given by the EFCC, stated that the court was a serious one and should not be taken for granted.
He added that section 165 of the Criminal Procedure Code gives the court the discretion of striking out a matter if it is stalled or the complainant is absent.
The Judge, however, noted that the counsel to the defendant had not asked the court to strike out the matter and could not, therefore, do that.
He adjourned the matter to Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1, for definite continuation of hearing.