The trial of Jonah Jang, former governor of Plateau State, continued with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) presenting more witnesses against him and Yusuf Gyang Pam, a cashier of the Office of the Secretary to the State Government.
They are being prosecuted on a 12-count charge bordering on misappropriation of state funds to the tune of N6.3 billion.
They were alleged to have been complicit in the fraudulent diversion of special funds released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for disbursement to small and medium enterprises in the state, under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds (MSMEDF) two months to the end of Jang’s tenure in 2015.
Testifying as a prosecution witness, Tapchi Yakubu Tashok, a staff of Zenith Bank Plc Jos main branch, while being led in evidence by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), admitted to knowing Pam.
He said: “I know the second defendant as the cashier of the cabinet office, and he is the one that always comes to the bank for huge withdrawals, and when he comes they will confirm the tendered cheques while they proceed to process his payment.
“Once there is no much cash available to accommodate the withdrawal, they source from other branches and sometimes have to seek approval to withdraw from the CBN.
“If the withdrawal involves a huge sum, we go to the CBN to move it with the bullion van from the CBN to our branch; we offload and ascertain that the cash is complete, we then go ahead, and debit the transaction, while he signs.
“He mostly usually comes around with Hilux van and escort to convey the cash from the loading bay.”
She further testified in her evidence-in-chief that the said withdrawals were made on April 7, 8, 9, and sometimes around March 2015.
Under cross-examination by Mike Ozekhome (SAN), counsel to Jang, she told the court that she never had any dealings with the first defendant, and had never seen him during any such withdrawal from her branch.
When asked if she knew how many bank accounts the Plateau State government was operating, she said, “it is outside my schedule”.
The defence, thereafter, sought to tender her statement as evidence, which was admitted by the Court as Exhibit D4.
The prosecution then presented another witness, Boyi Sauki Kiakau, the Accountant General during the tenure of Jang.
Led in evidence by Jacobs, he told the court that the manager of Zenith Bank Plc told him about the credit of N2 billion, and demanded that he provides the account details that has been opened for the said money.
He said: “He authorised him in writing to transfer the said sum after he was confronted with an authorization letter and directive from the Governor that the money be transferred to the Project One account.
“I received a directive from the governor through the Commissioner of Finance to borrow the funds to finance some classified expenditure.
“I also received another approval from the office of the SSG through the Commissioner of Finance to release the said fund and I thereafter raised a mandate to the bank to remit the sum of N2 billion to the office of the SSG, and the money was remitted in tranches.”
Jacobs then confronted the witness with some documents, including: a copy of approval made by the Governor to borrow the fund from the CBN; an instruction to the bank to transfer the account to PLASMEDA account and a counter transfer approval to transfer the money from PLASMEDA account to the Project 1 account; a request note that the said money was to be used for a classified purpose.”
The witness identified the documents and it was thereafter admitted in evidence as Exhibits P36 – P39, after no objections were raised by any of the defence counsels.
Jacobs further asked the witness if he had anything to do with the state’s Universal Basic Education Board.
In response, he said: “There was an approval from the Governor requesting to borrow the sum of N900 million from the State Universal Basic Education, SUBEB, and the said borrowing was to pay pending approvals.
“The SUBEB was only able to provide N750 million and the request was made on March 5, 2015.”
Copies of the approval were thereafter tendered through him and admitted in evidence by the court as Exhibit P40, as no objections were raised by the defence team.
Kiakau, further added that, “all the approvals and payments made within that period were said to be for ‘classified expenditure’”, adding that he did not know about any classified expenditure because such expenditure was not under his budgetary control. The case has been adjourned to April 9 and 10, 2019 for “continuation of hearing”.