Suswam arraigned over alleged N9.7bn fraud, pleads not guilty
Former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam, his Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Omadachi Oklobia, and the then Accountant, Benue State Government House Administration, Mrs. Janet Aluga were yesterday arraigned before the Federal High Court, Abuja
The three were thereafter granted bail in the sum of N750 million at N250m each.Aside the monetary sum, they were to produce one surety each, who must either be a Director in a Federal Civil Service or state agency, not below the rank of Grade level 12.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who admitted them to bail, however ruled that in case they are unable to secure a person of such status, any person who holds a National honour could serve as surety.The sureties are also expected to swear to an affidavit of means.
Meanwhile, the defendants are to deposit their International and Diplomatic Passports with the Court Registrar.Justice Kolawole further ordered that the bail conditions when perfected, would be verified by the Deputy Chief Registrar in charge of Litigation.
While the defendants work towards perfecting the bail conditions, the judge ordered that they be remanded in Kuje prison.Suswam and his co- defendants were earlier arraigned before the court on a 32-count charge bordering on alleged diversion of N9.7 billion.
The money, according to prosecution, was meant for Police reform programme and the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).The defendants had earlier objected to the application by the Federal Government to transfer their trial from the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to Makurdi division of the court.
According to the charge, the said money totalling N9,791,602,453.8 was allegedly diverted by the defendants between 2012 and 2015, while Suswam was the governor of the state.
The prosecution alleged in the case marked FHC/ABJ/CR/48/2017 that the three defendants committed the offences between 2012 and 2015.It also accused the defendants of conspiracy, conversion of property derived directly from corruption; collaboration to conceal property derived from corruption; obtaining by false pretence and accepting cash payments exceeding the amount authorised by law.
The Federal Government, through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, had on March 27, filed the 32-count charge before the Abuja Division of the Court.
When the case came up yesterday for arraignment, the prosecution counsel, Aminu Alilu requested that the case be transferred to Makurdi Division of the court.But his application was vehemently opposed to by counsel to the defendants led by Tiawo Tiawo (SAN) and Innocent Da’agba, who argued that it was in the interest of their clients that the case be tried in Abuja.
Following the development, the lawyers undertook not to object the territorial jurisdiction of the court in the course of the trial.After pleading not guilty to all the charges, prosecution counsel, Alilu, urged the court to adjourned the case for trial.The case was adjourned till October 10, 17, 19 and 20 accordingly for trial.