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N2.9bn Scam: Court Dismisses Turnah’s Objection on Admissibility of Statement

Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has struck out the application by Jennifer Timinipre Turner, wife of George Turnah, former Special Adviser to Mr. Dan Abia, erstwhile Managing Director of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, challenging the admissibility if the statement she had volunteered to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The statement which the EFCC had sought to tender in evidence on February 27, was opposed by the defence counsel, Prof. Amuda Kaneke. Relying on Section 232 of the Evidence Act, he urged the court to mark the “statement” rejected.

However, prosecuting counsel, 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 counsel to the 9th defendant, Concerned Niger Delta Youth Initiative, Prof Amuda Kaneke who had stated that his client was not known to law having not been registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, and could not sue or be sued.

He therefore asked that his client be struck off the charge.

But prosecution counsel, Arogha, had opposed the submission, insisting that 9th defendant is incorporated with CAC and tendered its certificate of incorporation as exhibit “EFCC 1”.

Justice Mohammed aligned himself with submission of the prosecution, noting that the defendant failed to controvert or challenge the averment of the prosecution and exhibit EFCC 1, being the certificate of incorporation. He therefore dismissed the preliminary objection as lacking merit.

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

Afterwards, the defendants continued their defense. But the 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 counsel said.

But Prof. 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 is inapplicable. He noted that the fair hearing which the defence alluded to under Section 36 of the Constitution had already been exercised “when they were given the opportunity to cross-examine. This procedure amount to abuse of court in all manner”.

Jennifer testifying as second witness, DW2, was asked by her counsel 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 I 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 counsel did not cross-examine her but rather prayed for adjournment to enable him prepare for cross-examination”, he said.

Turnah, two others and Nine Companies are also facing trial bordering on Obtaining Money by False Pretence, Money Laundering and Abuse of Office.

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