By: Valentine Adese (JP), Musa Gabriel and Hauwa K. Lawal,
As the prosecution of Sen. Jonah David Jang, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) continues, his life and the stress he is presently going through has drawn the concerns and attention of the Berom people and other ethnic minority groups in the state and Nigeria at large.
Many have started reminding themselves in different circles of the experiences the state saw and witnessed during the life and trials of late Joseph Gomwalk of blessed memories.
The trial has also attracted members of the National Assembly from the state, who thronged to the Plateau State Court room on the 23rd of December, 2019, among the mammoth crowd among them was Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos, member representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency.
You would recall that the EFCC is prosecuting Sen. Jonah Jang, at the Plateau State High Court, over alleged dishonest mismanagement, diversion and enriching himself with the state funds during his era as the governor of Plateau State.
Although age is not an issue in criminal trials, the defence Counsels have urged the court to foreclose the matter to enable the defendants know their fate in the matter.
It must be noted that the EFCC introduced its amended charge against, Sen. Jonah David Jang and a cashier in the office of the Secretary to the Plateau State Government, Mr. Yakubu Pam, after over one and half years and on the day the Commission was closing its case against the Defendants.
It is also on record that, the Defendants are also challenging the amended charge at the Court of Appeal in line with the ruling of the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Daniel Longji, which admitted the amended charge for not being offensive or against the provision of the Nigerian Constitution 1999, as amended.
The matter however came up on 23rd of December, 2019, over the Motion of No Case Submission, filed by the Defendants.
During the adoption of the processes relating to the Motion on No Case Submission, the prosecution (EFCC) led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), questioned why the Defence Counsels were so concerned and in a hurry, over the ruling of the court on the No Case Submission.
Rotimi SAN in part said:-
“Apologies my lord for what happened in the last adjourned date that is on the 17th of December, 2019, that the prosecutions address was not ready. I remember that I called the court to find out whether the Defendants have filed anything and that was when I got to know that they have filed.
“When I filed the amended charge, the Defence said they want to study it. They served their Motion on me and like the Appeals. I never anticipated that they would serve the EFCC and not me. We never took the court for granted!
I also apologize to the court for the words my colleague used, but Chief Ozekhome (SAN), was not also suppose to use such language even if the junior had done so.
Chief Ozekhome (SAN), had spoken of a dooms day. What is that supposed to mean? I am not expected to win all my cases, so, what is the dooms day to me?
“On the process, it is only on Saturday that I sat to look at the written address. My lord would recall that the court had done trial within trial hence, I know it was going to be a long period for the court to conclude this case.
“I am not complaining, but why are they in a hurry now for the court to rule?
“Today’s proceeding is very crucial to me! The issue is, whether the court can conclude the matter this way? I have a Motion/Application for extension of time my lord and owing to the hurriness, there are serious and noticeable errors, which need to be corrected”.
In a swift reply in part, Edward Pwajok SAN, Counsel to the 1st Defendant, Sen. Jang said:-
“My lord, this case would be reported in Law Reports, and would be document for Student, especially Law Students to make reference to hence, we are putting several efforts.
“Our client’s liberty is at stake here!
“We have conferred with Chief Ozekhome (SAN). Even though the application lacks merit, we are willing to bend backwards!
“They said the EFCC was served on the 4th of December, 2019 and now they are saying that the EFCC was served on the 16th. We have also observed several defects and they have also made several conclusions by saying that, the court has no time to deliver justice on the matter.
“We are on No Case Submission and in one sentence, this matter can be concluded.
“I therefore call on all of us to cooperate to bring to conclusion, this matter.
“Even if we allow this matter as it is now, the court would have read the processes and the application before our reply.
“The case is now over one year and half and one of the Defendants, Sen. Jonah David Jang, is over 70 years. It is better for them to know their fate and rest well with it.
“I would however be shocked if the prosecution met us point for point!”
In line with the submissions, the Court had also expressed its mind in part as below:-
“In fairness, to all of us, I cannot say anybody has deliberately frustrated this case on all sides. There were reasons for adjournments, especially, when the 1st Defendants was sick. It therefore cannot be reported that there was anybody frustrating the speed of hearing this matter.
“But, I had a vision that I may not finish hearing this case, but I cannot come to court to say God told me this in a vision.
“The Defendants have filed a No Case Submission, saying the prosecution has not made a case hence, they want justice.
“On your part, you have the opinion that you have made a case. If you are not ready, they are!
“The eagerness now is that, you don’t have a case, so, let the court set the Defendants free that is their thinking.
“It is your case and they have made a No Case Submission. My last day was 20th December, 2019, but owing to the numerous judgments and rulings that I must deliver, I took a fiat from the Chief Judge (CJ) and I have delivered most. I have up to the 31st of December, 2019. If I adjourn again, it means I am not going to deliver the ruling.
“It is your case and a No Case Submission has been made. You must file answers!
“Counsels already have addresses filed. Let them guide me! I don’t really waste time recounting counsel’s address, but the facts placed before the court is my interest. This is a very serious matter!”