Alleged N6.3bn Fraud: Lalong spends Plateau money same way Jang did, witness tells court

EFCC arraigns former Gov. Jonah Jang in Jos
File photo of Former Governor of Plateau, Sen Jonah Jang (M) being escorted by EFCC operatives during Jang’s appearance at the high court for alleged case of corruption by the EFCC, in Jos on Wednesday (16/5/18). 02547/16/5/2018/ Sunday Adah/HB/BJO/NAN

Habila Dung, a prosecution witness in the N6.3 billion fraud case against Jonah Jang, has said that the former Plateau governor’s style of expending security funds was not peculiar to him.

“Jang’s way of handling security funds is not new; it is the same way his successor, Gov. Simon Lalong, is doing it,” Mr Dung, former Permanent Secretary, Cabinet and Special Services, told the Plateau State High Court trying Mr Jang, on Friday in Jos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that Mr Dung is the fourth prosecution witness in the case brought against Mr Jang and Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Plateau Government House.

The accused persons are being tried over the alleged fraud said to have been committed between September 2010 and October 2014.

They are facing 12 count charges bordering on conspiracy and money laundering allegedly committed when Jang was the governor of the north-central state.

The anti-graft agency is alleging that the defendants had conspired to defraud the state of the said amount (N6.3bn), via illegal acts, contrary to, and punishable under, sections 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2011, as amended.

The former permanent secretary had, on Thursday, told the trial Judge, Daniel Longji, that all withdrawals made by Mr Pam were taken to Mr Jang for disbursement to the 17-member State Security Council.

But, while being cross-examined on Friday by Mr Jang’s counsel, Mike Ezekhome, Mr Dung said that the practice of withdrawing security funds from the state coffers by a cashier and delivering same to the governor in his office, was not peculiar to Jang.

“The practice is still on-going, long after Jang left office in May 29, 2015. The current governor is doing the same. So, it is nothing new.

“I was the Permanent Secretary, Cabinet and Special Services in the office of the Secretary to the State Government, between December 2014 and September 6, 2015.

“Once there is a security challenge, the governor will ask me to raise a memo for a certain amount which will be withdrawn by the cashier and taken to the governor,’’ he said.

NAN reports that Mr Ezekhome produced documents indicating withdrawals done between July 1 to October 7, 2015, in eight different bank statements by Yusuf Pam and his successor, Erick Kangnan, to further confirm that such withdrawals were “a normal trend with both the Jang and Lalong administrations.

“Will I, therefore, be correct to say that during Gov Jang’s and Gov Lalong’s tenures, while you were the permanent secretary, and when Yusuf Pam and Erick Kangnan were cashiers, the same pattern was adopted?’’ Mr Ezekhome asked, to which Dung answered, “yes sir, the pattern was the same.’’

“The same pattern used in withdrawing security funds tagged as `classified expenditures’ during Governor Jonah Jang is still the same pattern within the administration of Lalong,’’ Dung reaffirmed to the court.

The defence counsel asked the prosecution witness whether he had ever seen Pam (2nd accused), delivering any of the withdrawn funds to Mr Jang in his office, to which he answered in the negative.

On whether he had ever seen Mr Jang putting any such monies in the booth of his car to take home or heard anybody said he/she saw him (Jang), doing that when he was governor, Mr Dung answered, “not at all sir.’’

The defence counsel also asked Mr Dung whether he had ever heard any of the beneficiaries of the security funds complaining that Mr Jang ever denied him/her of his/her allowance, and the to prosecution witness said that no one had ever complained.

On whether the same security challenges Mr Jang faced as governor were faced by Governor Lalong when he (Dung), was still in office as permanent secretary in the cabinet office, Dung answered in the affirmative.

According to him, Mr Lalong was facing the same security challenges and was withdrawing and expending security funds “the same way”.

Justice Longji has adjourned the case to March 5, 6 and 7, 2019 for the continuation of hearing. (NAN)

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