The High Court of Justice sitting in Jos, Plateau State on Friday discharged and acquitted former Governor, Jonah Jang and his co-accused, Yusuf Pam of all 17 charges bordering on money laundering and misappropriation of funds to the tune of N6.3billion as preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Jang governed the State between 2007 and 2015 and has been standing trial since May 2018 alongside Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government
While delivering her judgment, Justice Christine Dabup stated that the EFCC could not prove their case of misappropriation and diversion of public funds hence she did not find the duo guilty of any of the charges. She discharged and acquitted them.
Reacting to the development, Senator Jang said, “Truth will always prevail in the end. I had known from the onset that leadership was not an easy task but I stepped out to make a difference
“Our Administration’s record speaks for itself as the State is dotted with developmental strides that affect the economy of the State and the daily livelihoods of the people.
“It is, however unfortunate that people whom I will best describe, for now, as the champions of retrogression and enablers of hardship for our people, came after us with bogus and fictitious claims of mismanagement thereby necessitating a protracted judicial journey of over four years. Because I knew that I was not guilty of the charges preferred against me, I saw the process as mere persecution and not a prosecution.
“In the course of this travail, I spent over a week in EFCC detention and another 10 days in the Jos Custodial Centre. Those times we spent there, gave us another perspective on life and I count it a blessing because it has all ended today with this loud and clear vindication by the court.
“The tortuous journey leading to my vindication today has only strengthened me to stand more on the path of truth and continue to work assiduously with well-meaning Plateau people and Nigerians for the good of our dear State, Plateau and the nation at large.
“I hold no grudge against anyone as I consider whatever I have gone through as the price I had to pay for choosing the path of leadership. I give God the glory for bringing me through and I call on all Plateau sons and daughters, including people of goodwill on the Plateau not to wish our leaders bad. Let us close ranks and speak with one voice so that Plateau will emerge out of its current state to take its rightful place of pride as the envy of other States.”
Mike Ozokhome, SAN, the former governor’s counsel stated, “The court found no merit whatsoever in any of the 17-count charges. This man who served the State very well, with impressive records has been undergoing a torturous, harrowing experience for about four and a half years of trial and tribulations. But today, the law spoke, and justice came out triumphantly. God did what He knows how best to do, to vindicate the just.
“As a sitting governor, he took a loan of N250 million to be able to buy a house in Abuja, and he was paying back this loan gradually. The court found that the records were there and you were saying that he stole billions of Naira. The investigations did not find money with this man, whether in his account whether in his office, whether with his children, whether with his wife, whether with his relations, whether with his friends. So where was this phantom money?”
Counsel to the EFCC, Oluwaleke Atolagbe noted, “This case was initially before Hon. Justice Longji, the prosecution called 12 witnesses and closed its case, the defendants entered a no case submission but the court said the defendants had a case to answer. The defendants were to enter their defence but unfortunately, His Lordship retired.
“The case was brought before a new judge, the prosecution called 14 witnesses and tendered even more documents than what was tendered before the former judge. The defendants rested their case and then went to addresses and judgment.
Now the judge has ruled that in respect of the17 count, none was established beyond a reasonable doubt. We have not seen the complete copy of the judgment, we will look at it and review it, and most likely we will go on appeal.”
However, the Senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Istifanus Gyang and Member representing Barkin Ladi/Riyom federal constituency, Simon Mwadkwon, have lauded the development.
Gyang said, “The discharge and acquittal is a divine vindication, the outcome of the trial indicates that the Nigerian Judiciary can still be relied upon for fair and just adjudication and justice administration.”
Mwadkwon added, “It was a landmark judgment given in truth, we are happy that the judgment was well delivered.”