N1.3bn Fraud: Court cautions Nyame's Counsel over un-guarded statements
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday September 28 th, 2010 scolded counsel to former governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Nyame, over his verbal attack on a principal prosecution witness, Mr Denis Orkuma Nev, in the on-going N1.3 billion fraud trial instituted by the Economic and Financial crimes Commission, EFCC, against the former governor.
The defence counsel, Barrister Olanikan Ojo, leading the cross examination , at the resumed hearing of the case today addressed the witness as “so-called Civil Servant”, a phrase which the prosecution counsel, Barrister Rotimi Jacobs, objected to and prayed the court to urge Ojo to withdraw. While the Judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko urged Ojo to take correction, the defence counsel refused, insisting that he can't take correction from Jacobs. It was at that juncture that the Judge scolded Ojo saying “ I am not going to tolerate that from you. If you used offensive words and you are corrected, you have to take correction. Who are you to say you can't take correction from a counsel?”
Also, efforts by Barrister Ojo to puncture the arguments of Nev, who insisted he gave the ex-governor N101 million cash after withdrawing the money from the state accounts on the instructions of Nyame failed as the witness refused to changed his position. During cross examination, the defence counsel tried every legal trick to cow the witness to submission that he never gave the said money to the accused, but Nev stood his ground.
Barrister Ojo, in one of his questions, had asked if the accused signed any document to show that he collected money from him, Nev answered that it was never a practice for the governor to sign any of such papers. “It was not a practice in Taraba State government house, it was not a tradition”, Nev said.
He also asked if the governor received the money personally from the witness, to which he replied that the governor has never collected money by hand, rather, he would point to a direction in his office and said “keep it there”.
Earlier, the lead defence counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, had told the court that all questions put to the witness by the team of defence counsel should be allowed to stand. “Since sending somebody to jail is not a funny matter, that we have asked questions before does not matter, we would ask again and again to ascertain the veracity of the claims by the witness”, he said
He was responding to the position of Rotimi Jacobs who pointed out that the defence counsel have been over flogging and unnecessarily dragging the case as to prolong it.
Ex-governor Nyame is facing a 41 count charge of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and gratification, totalling one billion, three hundred and sixty million naira (N1, 360,000,000) before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT high court, Gudu Abuja.
Nev had in June while being led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs told Justice Banjoko how the former governor unilaterally raised and approved the sum of One Hundred and One million naira (N101, 000,000), for the visit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the state, without following normal processes of disbursing funds.
He had also said that memos for the amount were raised on a single day, 11 th April, 2007, and payment vouchers approved at the government house rather than the ministry of finance .
Besides, Nev also disclosed how over Two hundred Million Naira (N200, 000, 000) was withdrawn by some officials of both the Taraba state government house, specifically, the cashier, Joel Andrew and the then Taraba State liaison officer, in Abuja for the governor's private use.
When the matter resumed on Monday September 28 for cross examination, the prosecution witness 4, Mr Nev insisted that the former governor directed him to raise the N101 million which he did and brought to him cash on April 11 th 2007, a day before the visit of former President Obasanjo.
The defense Counsel also tried establishing the number of offices that PW4 will have to pass through before getting to the governor's office and the likely number of people he must see before getting, the witness told the court that he didn't need any clearance to see the Governor being the Permanent Secretary Administration in the govt house, and that through the various offices leading to the Governor's Office, only the last which is the 4 th has a constant presence of the Governor's Orderly.
Justice Banjoko has however adjourned the matter to mid day, Wednesday 29 th September 2010 for further cross examination.