Trial in the nine-count charge preferred against former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC over alleged N3.1billion fraud, continues today.
When the matter came up yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN tendered some document as exhibits before the court through the prosecution witness, Mrs. Bridgid Shietu.
Suswam was arraigned alongside his Finance Commissioner, Omadachi Okolobia on a nine-count charge of money laundering, and mismanagement of funds to the tune of over N3.1 billion belonging to the state when he held sway as Benue State governor.
The document tendered as exhibit, through the witness, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Benue Investment and Property Company Limited, BIPCL, included a letter written by the EFCC to the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, requesting for the certificate of incorporation of the Benue State Investment Company Limited.
She told the court that the former governor gave approval for the sales of the shares belonging to the Benue State Government.
When asked whether she was aware that one of the accounts in which the proceeds of some of the shares did not belong to the Benue State Government, the witness said, “I was not aware that one of the accounts was owned by a private company. I got the two account numbers from the former commissioner of finance (Okolobia).
“He conveyed the account numbers to me on a letter-head paper of the Office of the State Ministry of Finance, so there was no way that I would have known that one of the accounts did not belong to the state government”, she told the court.
Mrs. Sheitu had earlier told the court that the shares in various stock broking companies were sold through a private firm, Elixir Nigeria Limited for about N9 billion on the final directive of the former governor.
Testifying in a charge brought against former governor Suswam, the MD and CEO of BIPC said a 5-man board headed by retired General John Atom Kpera was appointed by the former governor.
She said 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.
Suswam and the former Benue state finance commissioner who pleaded not guilty to the nine-count charge have been granted bail by the court.
In his ruling, the trial Judge, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed admitted Suswam and his commissioner of finance bail in the sum of N100 million each and one surety each.
The Judge said the surety must be a director on grade level 12 and above, in the employment of the federal, state or local government and that the sureties must swear to an affidavit of means.
Alternatively, the sureties should be persons conferred with national honours of the country and that the two accused persons should submit their passports to the Registrar of the court.
Count one of the charge reads, “That you Gabriel Suswam and Omodachi Okolobia, while being Benue State Governor and Commissioner of Finance of Benue State respectively between 8th and 30th October, 2014 in Abuja, took possession of $15.8 million from Abubakar Umar of Fanffash Resources World-wide Limited, a Bureau de change dealer, which sum you knew to be proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: theft of N3.1 billion which form part of the sum of N9.4 billion realised from the sale of shares owned by Benue State Government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 ( 2) ( d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act”.


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