Ex-gov Suswan
Ex-gov Suswan

Trial of former Benue State governor, Chief Gabriel Suswam, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an alleged N3.1 billion fraud ran into a hitch yesterday due to emergence of contradicting evidence from the prosecution witness.
The trial holding at the Federal High Court in Abuja had to be cut short by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), in order to save the trial from derailing completely.
At the resumed hearing, a prosecution witness, Mallam Abubakar Umar had told the court how he allegedly received phone calls from Suswam in August 2014 for a business deal at his Maitama residence in Abuja.
Led in evidence by Jacobs, the witness, a Bureau De Change operator trading under the name, Fanfash Resources Ltd, Abuja, told Justice Ahmed Mohammed how N3.1 billion was paid into his company’s account in tranches by an unnamed aide of the former governor.
The witness further testified that he was mandated by the unnamed aide to convert the said N3.1billion into US dollars at the then exchange rate of 197 to a dollar.
The Bureau de Change operator told the court that in the sum of 15.8million dollars was realised at the end of the exchange.
Trouble, however, started for the prosecution when the witness who had earlier in his statement to EFCC admitted that the $15.8million was taken to the residence of the former governor in Maitama, Abuja, made a dramatic u-turn by informing the court that the said sum was taken to Government House in Makurdi, Benue State.
Efforts by Jacobs to rationalise the evidence of the witness were unsuccessful as Umar insisted that the money was delivered to Government House in Benue State and not the Abuja residence of the former governor.
The witness also refused to yield to the claim of the prosecution that the $15.8million cash was delivered to the person of Suswam.
At this stage, Jacobs, the EFCC lead counsel, became uncomfortable with contradictions in the evidence of the witness who stood his ground, that he did not deliver the huge sum either to Suswam as a person or to his house in Maitama, Abuja.
In a bid to save the trial from being collapsed by the witness due to the contradictions, Jacobs applied to Justice Mohammed to cut the trial short and grant him adjournment to enable him put his house in order.
“I want to seek adjournment of this trial; this witness is being interfered with by the opposing party. I want to put my house in order so I need an adjournment.
“I have the option of charging this witness to court for criminal offence along with other accused persons, but I did not do so. But if he thinks he can do what he is doing now, I too know what to do.”
However, counsel to Suswam, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN) opposed the application for an adjournment, adding that in law what the prosecution ought to do was to treat the witness as a hostile witness.
Also, counsel to Omadachi Okolobia, Mr. Audu Anuga also opposed the application on the ground that the prosecution was allegedly planning to get adjournment so as to intimidate, harass and coerce the witness to do the bidding of the prosecution.
The counsel applied for a court order to restrain the EFCC from arresting or intimidating the witness since he had become the property of the court until he was discharged.
The counsel claimed that the reason for the adjournment request by the prosecution was in bad faith because it was due to the allegation that people were interfering with the witness.
In his reply, Jacobs told the court that the vehement manner in which lawyers to the accused persons were asking for protection for his own witness confirmed his fears and suspicions that the witness had been compromised.
“I have complained to the senior counsel that my witness is being compromised. I pray every day not to convict an innocent and I also pray to God that may that day never come when the convict would be allowed to go scot-free. I know how to conduct my case and this witness is still my witness.”
However, in his brief ruling, Justice Mohammed adjourned further trial till May 9 and 10, but said that court would not hold the fear of defence lawyers against Jacobs since he had not shown any bad conduct in the trial of the case before, and that the court believed that as a senior counsel in the temple of justice, Jacobs would not arm-twist the witness for a negative purpose.


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