The trial of Jonah Jang, a former Governor of Plateau State who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before Justice Daniel Longji of the Plateau State High Court sitting in Jos on a 12-count charge of abuse of office and misappropriation of funds, continued on Tuesday with prosecution witnesses – Mudashiru Olaitan and Uchenna Igwe – providing graphic details of how the senator allegedly diverted funds meant for Small and Medium Enterprises in the state.
Led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, the two witnesses testified to the effect that Mr Jang moved the funds to an account other than that approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and thereafter presided over the dissipation of the monies.
First to testify was Mr Olaitan, a director, Development Finance Department of the CBN.
He told the court that Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Funds, MSMEDF, is one of the initiatives by the CBN to improve access to finance by micro small and medium enterprises at single digit interest rate.
He explained that the Plateau State Government under Mr Jang applied to the CBN to be part of the scheme in 2014.
“We processed it and the funds were disbursed to the state through the account provided by the state government”, he said.
Before the disbursement, the witness recalls that the General Manager of the Plateau State Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, PLASMEDAN, Sylvester Dabo, wrote to the CBN asking that the funds be paid into an account different from the one provided by the state government. There was also a counter letter from the state government asking the apex bank to pay the money into its nominated account.
He said N2 billion was disbursed around March 2015 but observed that the money was not disbursed to beneficiaries which made the apex bank to threaten to recall the funds.
Mr Olaitan was emphatic that the funds was diverted as it was not disbursed to beneficiaries. He also told the court that PLASMEDAN does not exist, either in staffing or structure.
The second prosecution witness (PW2), Uchenna Igwe, a senior manager with Zenith Bank, was the manager of Beach Road branch of the bank when the money was paid by the CBN.
“While I was in Jos, my bank had a business relationship with the state government”, he told the court..
He further told the court that the state government has two different accounts with the bank namely: Plateau State Project Account and Plateau State Small and Medium Enterprise Development, PLASMEDAN account.
He told the court that the moment the account was credited, he alerted the state government and was directed to move the funds from PLASMEDAN account to another account. From that point, he said, “There was no disbursement to any beneficiary; we only got mandate to transfer the money as follows.
“On the 25th March 2015 ,N50million was transferred to Government House account; N150million, N2million, N3million, N5million, N150million , N15million, N26.2million, N11million to Office of the Secretary to the State Government, OSSG Cabinet Office; N8.3million to Government House, Cabinet Office and another N609million to Centralized Salary Account.
“On the 26th March, 2015, N55million was transferred to Plateau State House of Assembly, PSHA, account; N68million, N150million, N32millin and another N150million was transferred to OSSG.
“ On April 24,, 2015 there was a withdrawal of about N150million x 7 times from the Office of the Secretary to the State Government”, he said.
He noted that all the transfers were made after the inflow of the said N2 billion.
Mr Jang is accused of misappropriating state funds to the tune of N6.3billion.
He is being prosecuted alongside a cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Yusuf Pam, who was also accused of using his office for personal enrichment to the tune of N11.5 million.
Specifically, Mr Jang allegedly embezzled funds released to the state 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 his tenure as Governor in 2015.
The matter which was earlier slated for trial, July 17, could however not go on as the prosecution’s witnesses were absent in court.
Henry Ejiga, who stood in for Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the EFCC, had told the court that the prosecution had challenges in bringing the witnesses to court due to the security concerns in the state.
It would be recalled that on June 23, crisis broke out in city that led to the loss of many lives, destruction of properties and disruption of peace and order in the state.
Justice Longji adjourned the matter to October 31 for continuation of trial.