A prosecution witness, Mary Anthony Bawa, on Monday, told Justice Daniel Longji of the High Court, sitting in Jos that the approval of N2.079billion for the Plateau State Universal Education Board (PLASUBEB) by the former governor of the state, Senator Jonah Jang did not follow due process.
The former Plateau State governor, Jang (first defendant) had faced 12-count charges for abuse of office, embezzlement and money laundering to the tune of N10billion, brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which the prosecution at the resumed sitting amended to 17.
Bawa is prosecution witness number 12 and a civil servant in the Office of the Accountant General, Plateau State Ministry of Finance, but had served in PLASUBEB as Director Finance and Supply, where she processed financial documents, make payments and keep records.
The function of PLASUBEB is to build and furnish primary and secondary schools and train teachers for efficiency. It operates a joint account with the federal and Plateau State Government, involving the 17 local governments of the state, from which it receives funds.
Speaking, Bawa said: “As a financial expert, the approval limit for the threshold for the board did not follow due process as I am not aware that threshold limit for the sum of N2.079billion was ever presented to the board. All that I know is that the loan of N2.079billion was handed over to me”.
Disclosing how the funds were disbursed, Bawa said: “On my resumption, my colleagues handed over the loan of N2.079billion, borrowed by the previous government to me. I processed another request to borrow N750million by following a letter and directives from the chairman.
“It was discovered that about N3billion was withdrawn from Plateau State, SUBEB account and first defendant had directed that it should be borrowed from the Plateau State SUBEB account.
“We discovered that these monies were borrowed in tranches. The first tranche was N2.079billion, which the first defendant directed to be paid to other contractors and liabilities in the state.”
Bawa added that another N700million was used as classified expenditure while another N400million was also borrowed and used for classified expenditures.
She further explained that the official activities including renovation of schools, furnishing and buildings of primary and secondary schools in Plateau State were suspended due to the negative impacts of the borrowing.
“SUBEB could not carry out the purpose of the funds as the said funds were diverted to classified expenditure, where the second defendant withdrew cash and delivered to Jang,” the witness said.
“Looking at Exhibit P45, another sum of N1billion was processed via the loan procedure but only N400million was released due to the fact that there was not sufficient money to pay for the teachers’ salaries, which took us over four months from August 2014 to December 2014 due to the unavailability of funds,” she added.
While being led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, (SAN), the PW12 said, “Before I left SUBEB in August 2015, the non-payment of loans, ranging from N2.079billion, N750million to N400million, etc, affected the day-to-day operations of the educational sector negatively by slowing down the pace of work.”
One of the amended charges reads: “That you Jonah David Jang on or about 19th June, 2014 at Jos Plateau State whilst being the governor of Plateau State transferred by approving the sum of N2,079, 439,219.88 for other projects and programmes of the state government and which funds was originally allocated and contributed by the Federal Government of Nigeria and Plateau State Government, for the improvement of Basic Primary Education in Plateau State and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(5) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.”
Another of the new charges reads, “That you Jonah David Jang on or about March 2015 at Jos Plateau State whilst being the Governor of Plateau State transferred by approving the sum of N900,000,000 for security and classified expenditure and which fund was originally allocated and contributed by the local governments of Plateau State for the payment of salaries and entitlements of primary school teachers in Plateau State and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 22(5) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”
The defence counsels, led by G. Pwajok, (SAN) asked for time to review the amended charges and respond accordingly. Justice Longji had to adjourn the matter to October 10, 2019, for hearing on the amended charges.