‘Suswam authorised payment of share proceeds into BDC account’

gabriel-suswam5PROSECUTING witness, yesterday, told a Federal High Court, Abuja that former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam and his Commissioner of Finance, Omodachi Okolobia, mandated several payments into the account of a Bureau de Change company contrary to the peddled rumour that account belonged to state’s Ministry of Finance Project.

Suswam and Okolobia are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting proceeds of sale of the state-owned shares.

At the commencement of the trial yesterday, the anti-graft agency called its third prosecution witness (PW3) into the box.

Aluyi Victor, a portfolio manager with Elixir Investments Partners Ltd., described his duties with the company as “to manage and grow wealth of clients and optimising values of their wealth,” which he defined as financial assets.

Testifying before Justice Ramat Mohammed, Victor told the court that the defendants had introduced his company to the Benue Investment and Properties Company.

When across-examined by the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), he said: “I am aware that sometime in January 2014, the company had made a presentation to the executive council of Benue State Government on the advantages of consolidating its financial assets, essentially shares in one position in order that it be properly managed for optimal returns.

“The company was then introduced to the management of the Benue State Investments and Properties Company where it made the same presentation.

“The Executive Governor and the Commissioner of Finance made the introduction.

“After the introduction, we got a verbal go-ahead to consolidate the shares into our position from various stock broking houses.

“After the consolidation, we valued the total shares, giving their value at the time at N25.2 billion.

“We had about nine shares in different companies, however, they were predominantly made up of Dangote Cement shares and Julius Berger shares,” he disclosed.

Victor continued: “Subsequent to the validation, we also got a verbal mandate to commence selling of the shares.

“The first tranche of payment was made after the initial sales were made based also on a verbal mandate.”

When asked who gave Elixir Investment the go-ahead for sales of shares, he said: “I’m aware that my MD spoke with the commissioner of finance, Benue State, who gave the go-ahead for the sales. Sales were done in various tranches because of the volume of shares involved.”

“After the sales were completed, we realised the total sales proceeds of N9,411,078.61.

While the defense counsel, Joseph Daudu, prayed that the input be struck out of evidence, Rotimi immediately countered the application for stay of the witness’ statement to which the judge agreed.

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