The Plateau State High Court sitting in Jos has threatened to strike out the criminal case instituted against a former governor of Plateau State and senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Jonah David Jang, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) if the commission continues to delay proceeding with flimsy excuses.
Justice Daniel Longji said he has the constitutional right to strike out the case, “but the defence counsel has not made that application; he has only reluctantly agreed to the adjournment”.
He was reacting to the plea by the counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Henry Ejiga, who said that the commission could not produce the witnesses in court on Tuesday for security reasons.
He did not only ask for the adjournment of the case from Tuesday to another date, he also asked the court to vacate the proceedings slated for Wednesday and Thursday.
The case was slated for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The judge said that if for security reasons the commission could not produce the witnesses in its custody, it should have produced the ones that are not in the commission’s custody, who are not at any security risk.
He added that he was neither for the prosecution nor for the defence, but that he was out to use the sword of righteousness.
Ejiga had cited security reasons why the EFCC could not produce the witnesses to testify in court.
He said: “We are of great constraint as we have made effort to ensure that we produce the witnesses so that proceeding can go on, but unfortunately, we were informed of some security challenges, as a result we are unable to present the witnesses today.
“But for the respect we have for this honourable court, we have decided to come rather than writing to inform the court. In the circumstance, we urge My Lord for an adjournment and to vacate the subsequent days of tomorrow and next.”
Infuriated by the delay in proceeding, the lead counsel to the defendant, Mr. Robert Clarke (SAN), warned that “criminal trials are enjoined by the law to be fast and speedy; because of that presumption that we are still innocent, we should not be treated as criminals. Justice delayed is justice denied”.
He expressed surprise that the reason being touted by the EFCC is that of security.
“If, as claimed by the prosecution counsel, security is the reason, then by law, the witnesses should not remain in the EFCC custody.
“If we, without security guards can come from Lagos to Jos and move around freely, it says a lot on the part of EFCC using security as an excuse for not being in court.
“EFCC has a control over arms and ammunition; they always tell us that the ‘Red Eagle’ will always catch us wherever we are; why are they now afraid to come to Jos to do their job on the excuse that they, the very custodians of arms are afraid of security?
“We would have been at home with whatever other reason they gave, but certainly not security. It is a shame for EFCC to be afraid to come to court over security when other citizens are moving about freely on the streets of the same Jos.
“But government is so powerful; they could do whatever they please. But one with God is majority,” he said.
Clarke said the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had called him twice pleading for an adjournment, “but I said ‘No’, because I wanted proceeding to be fast. In fact, he called me again yesterday, and I told him I was already in Jos waiting. But he is not here today”.
While reluctantly agreeing to an adjournment, Clarke urged the court to extract affirmative words from the prosecution counsel that the witnesses would be brought to court on the next adjourned date without producing another flimsy excuse.
Ruling, Justice Longji adjourned the case to 30th and 31st of October, and 1st of November, 2018, warning the EFCC and its counsel not to find reasons to ask for another adjournment.