N2.9bn scam: Court dismisses Turnah’s objections against evidence

Legal

Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has dismissed the application by Jennifer Timinipre Turner, wife of George Turnah, challenging the admissibility of the statement she volunteered to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Turner, a former Special Adviser to Mr. Dan Abia, erstwhile Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been undergoing trial over alleged N2.9bn scam.

Turner, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s godson, and his wife, Jennifer and others are being prosecuted on a four-count amended charge bordering on failure to make full disclosure of their assets.

Efforts by the EFCC lawyer to tender evidence extracted from Jennifer on February 27, was opposed by the defence lawyer, Prof. Amuda Kaneke, who relied on Section 232 of the Evidence Act.

He asked the court to mark the statement “rejected”, but the prosecuting lawyer, A.I.Arogha described the application as misconceived, and urged the court to discountenance the objection.

At the resumed hearing of the case on March 20, 2020, Justice Mohammed upheld the submission of the prosecution and admitted the statement in evidence as “Exhibit C”.

Justice Mohammed similarly dismissed the application by the lawyer to the 9th defendant, Concerned Niger Delta Youth Initiative, Prof AKaneke, who claimed that his client was not known to law since it was not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and could not sue or be sued.

He asked that his client be struck off the charge, but Arogha opposed the submission, insisting that 9th defendant was incorporated with CAC and tendered its certificate of incorporation as exhibit “EFCC 1”.

Mohammed aligned himself with the submission of the prosecution, noting that the defendant failed to controvert the averment of the prosecution and exhibit EFCC, being the certificate of incorporation.

He, therefore, dismissed the preliminary objection as lacking merit.

The judge also upheld the prosecution’s argument that there was sufficient material linking the 9th defendant to the charge.

Attempt by the defence to present one Eugene Nwuozi who had earlier testified as prosecution witness, PW16 , as Defence witness, DW1, was opposed by the prosecution.

“He had earlier testified in this case as PW16 against the same set of defendants and complainant, cross-examined on behalf of the defendant by the same law firm of Prof Amuda Kaneke, SAN.

We submit that this witness having testified for the prosecution and cross-examined by the defense, the same defense cannot validly call him as defense witness, whatever it was that they could have elicited from him. It is a strange practice that is not known to us”, the prosecuting lawyer said.

But Kaneke (SAN) relying on Section 175 of the Evidence Act, said: “There is no part of the Section of the Evidence Act that states that once witness has testified for the prosecution, then he is disqualified to testify for the defense.”

Arogha insisted that Section 175 of the Evidence Act was inapplicable noting that the fair hearing which the defence alluded to under Section 36 of the Constitution had already been exercised.

Jennifer testifying as second witness, was asked by her lawyer to tell the court what transpired when the Asset Declaration form was given to her to fill in the EFCC office

She said : “When they gave me the form, it was a large form and I did not have necessary information available at my disposal to enable me fill the form accurately…

“I was told that they were not after me but my husband, George Turnah who was being investigated by EFCC. I was also told that my husband had filled some of our assets…but that he omitted our house in Port Harcourt and our house in Lagos…

“I was shocked and told them that we never owned a house in Port Harcourt and we never owned a house in Lagos…I went ahead and filled the form. By this time, they had seized our house in Lagos and we were staying in a rented apartment”.

After the testimony of DW2, which were obviously contradictory, prosecution lawyer did not cross-examine her but rather prayed for adjournment to enable him prepare for cross-examination.

Justice Mohammed adjourned the case till April 23, 2020.

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