- Tsav alerts Buhari on fiscal impunity in Ortom’s govt
Much publicised arraignment of former Benue State Governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over alleged money laundering and corruption charges did not take place yesterday.
Although the anti-graft agency had filed a nine-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N3.1 billion against Suswam who ruled Benue State from 2007 to 2015 at the Federal High Court Abuja, the case file has not been assigned to a Judge of the court for adjudication by the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.
Besides, the Chief Judge, Justice Auta was said to be attending a seminar organized for Judges outside the court premises.
Journalists and lawyers who had besieged the court, following a statement from the EFCC over the planned arraignment left disappointed after waiting for several hours without the arraignment.
Prosecution counsel to EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, told journalists that the matter was not going on yesterday as the case file was yet to be assigned to a particular Judge for the arraignment to take place.
Jacobs, who came to the court complex in company of Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi, was among several other lawyers who were in court in respect of the case.
Suswam and his former finance commissioner, Omodachi Okolobia, were alleged to have diverted the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by the Benue State government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited.
The offence is punishable under Section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 20111 as amended in 2012.
The EFCC had grilled Suswam and his former finance commissioner, Mr. Oklobia for many days last month but released them on administrative bail.
Meanwhile, a group under the auspices of Benue Coalition for Justice, Equity and Fairness, in a press statement, has claimed that the invitation of the former Benue governor, Gabriel Suswam by the EFCC was the handiwork of some political heavy weights in the state.
While condemning moves by the state governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom to probe his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, the group expressed regret that pressing issues of governance had been allegedly relegated to the background in the state in preference for a witch-hunt.
The statement signed by National President, Peter Hwande and Secretary General, Ogbole Alechenu, the group claimed that Suswam’s era represented the best period for the state since 1999, but for the unfortunate delay in salaries, which became the bane of the entire country in the last two years as a result of the global economic meltdown.
Besides, social critic and Commissioner, Public Complaints Commission, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to beam his searchlight on the politics and reckless fiscal spending going on in Benue State.
Tsav’s call which was contained in a signed statement made available to Nigerian Pilot in Makurdi, the state capital yesterday, said what is happening in the state is a direct opposite of the APC change mantra.
But in a swift reaction, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Samuel Ortom on Media and ICT, Terver Akase said there is high rate of fiscal responsibility in the state.
“There is prudent spending of the people’s resources by the present administration, unlike what we saw in the last eight years which many of us expected the anti corruption crusader, Alhaji Tsav to speak against but he unfortunately remained silent,” Akase said.
However, Tsav, who is also a retired Commissioner of Police, maintained that, “What is happening in Benue State is a direct opposite of the APC change mantra,” adding: “A lot of lie telling, deceit and gluttony are going on.”