The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday accused some suspected pension thieves on trial of threatening its witnesses in a bid to undermine evidence established against them.
Mr. Bello Yahaya of the EFCC Operations Department disclosed this at a â€˜sensitisation workshop on the importance of protecting witnessesâ€™ identity and addresses,â€™ which was organised by the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action in Abuja.
A report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted him as saying that because of the stolen funds at their disposal, the pension thieves try to entice witnesses in order to stop them from turning up in court to testify in their trial.
â€œPresently we are prosecuting a case of pension scam and our witnesses are being threatened.
â€œSome are being told to leave the country or relocate, some are told to change phone numbers.
â€œSome are even offered new means of livelihood because the suspects have the money,â€ he said.
In her contribution, a judge of the Abuja High Court, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, noted that challenges encountered in the attendance of witnesses was one of the biggest handicaps in the prosecution of criminal cases in the country.
She stressed that the security agencies involved in criminal prosecutions, particularly the police, are most times not able to manage their witnesses.
She said: â€œThere is a lack of capacity to track down the witnesses.
â€œAt the commencement of cases, the witnesses are identified and known, but along the line, due to delays in the trial, some of them travel or relocate.â€
The judge also expressed reservations at the practice whereby prosecutors produce their witnesses â€œin piecemealâ€ when they could bring them all at once.
The judge also spoke of a need for an effective witness protection programme, especially in terrorism trials.
â€œWhat are the safeguards put in place?
â€œThis is very crucial especially in terrorism cases where they (witnesses) feel that their lives and that of their family members are in danger,â€ she said.
Justice Banjoko added that several cases had been lost because prosecuting counsel failed to prepare their witnesses for the trials when they were called to give evidence.
â€œYou find out that a lot of witnesses that come to court have no clue (about the trial) and they end up messing up the case,â€ she said.
The Deputy Director of Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Yinka Lawal, said the workshop was aimed at addressing challenges encountered in the administration of witnesses.