A Federal High Court in Abuja was yesterday told that the Board of Benue Investment and Property Company Ltd, BIPCL approved the sales of N10billion worth shares of the company to finance some key projects during the administration of former governor Gabriel Suswam.
The court was told that the shares in various stock broking companies were sold through a private firm, Exhlir Nigeria Ltd at N9billion on the final directive of the board.
Testifying in a charge brought against Dr. Suswam, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of BIPCL, Mrs. Brijid Shiedu said that the 5-man board headed by retired General John Atom Kpera was however appointed by the former governor.
She told Justice Ahmed Mohammed how Suswam contacted the Board to help the state raise fund for the state government through the sales of its shares in some blue-chip companies when the state witnessed financial down-turn and he never in any way influenced the Board to carry out the sales of the shares.
The witness who was led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, said that she also got the approval in writing from the former governor when the board decided that the shares should be sold before the sales were carried out.
She further testified that after the sales, a sum of N1billion was earmarked and paid into the Benue State Investment Company while other payments were made into the account of the State Ministry of Finance and one other company.
The witness told the court that a written approval was secured from the then State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Okolobia Okpanachi before payments into various accounts were made.
However, attempt to tender some of the letters generated heated argument as counsel to Suswan, Mr. Tawo E. Tawo, SAN insisted that Benue Investment Company was not a public organization and that it has no law establishing it.
He urged Justice Mohammed not to admit the letters said to have emanated from the office of the former governor, former finance commissioner and the company.
But EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs insisted that the company was a government agency by virtue of the fact that its Managing Director was a public officer.
Justice Mohammed while admitting the letters as exhibits directed the lawyers to address the court on the status of the company at the address stage.
Further hearing has been fixed for February 15.
Last Monday, the court was told that the petition upon which Suswam was indicted for N3.1billion alleged fraud was based on an anonymous petition.
The witness, while testifying in the trial, informed the court that till date, petitioner could not be located and that the address provided on the petition did not exist.
Under cross-examination by Suswam’s lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, the witness also admitted that the e-mail messages sent by EFCC to the petitioner through his e-mail address provided on the petition were not delivered because the addresses did not exist.‎
He told Justice Mohammed that the EFCC attempted to invite the petitioner through the address provided on the petition for clarifications on the allegations contained in the petition but could not trace the petitioner up till now.
The EFCC had put Suswam and the former Commissioner for Finance, Okolobia Okpanachi on trial on the allegation that he sold off shares belonging to Benue State Investment and Property Limited worth N9billion without the consent of the State House of Assembly and allegedly diverted the proceeds to personal use.
He is also being tried for alleged breach of trust and money laundering.
In his evidence that lasted over three hours, the EFCC operative claimed that he was detailed to investigate the petition but however admitted that he did not visit Benue throughout his investigation.
Among others, the witness told the court that the petitioner also alleged that Suswam diverted N6billion ecological fund received from the Federal Government in the period of 8 years, N1billion from Sale/Lease from Taraku Vegetable Oil, N25billion from Local Government funds and that he also took a loan of N12billion from the Capital Market to provide infrastructural facilities that were never executed.
The witness, however, said that investigation into the sale of shares had been completed by EFCC while investigations into other matters are still pending.

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