EFCC re-arraigns Suswam, ex-commissioner on amended fraud charge

November 3, 2020

By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday re-arraigned former Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam before a Federal High Court in Abuja on a fraud-related charge.
Suwam was re-arraigned with a former Finance Commissioner in the state, Omadachi Oklobia, on an amended 11-count charge filed by the EFCC.
The commission amended the earlier nine-count charge on which the defendants were first arraigned in 2015, raising the counts to 11.
Suswam (now the senator representing Benue North East) was Benue State governor between 2007 and 2015, while Oklobia served as Finance Commissioner, the period the alleged fraud was committed.
They are accused, among others, of diverting about N3.1 billion, which the EFCC claimed formed part of the proceeds from the sale of Benue State’s shares in some companies.

Following their initial arraignment, trial commenced, with the prosecution calling four witnesses until the judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, recused himself on the grounds that an online medium, Sahara Reporters, alleged that he had been compromised.
The case was later re-assigned to another judge, Justice Okon Abang, before whom it started afresh and progressed.
Under Justice Abang, the prosecution called three witnesses until proceedings were halted on account of an order of the Court of Appeal directing that the case be returned to Justice Mohammed for continuation.
The Court of Appeal had, in a judgment on February 19, 2020, upheld Suswam’s appeal and faulted the manner Justice Mohammad recused himself from the case.
At the mention of the matter on Monday before Justice Mohammed, lead prosecuting lawyer, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, informed the court about the amendment to the charge and asked the court to accept the amended charge for the purpose of the defendants’ re-arraignment.
Lawyers to the defendants – Adedayo Adedeji and Audu Anuga – did not object, following which Suswam and Oklobia pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
Justice Mohammed ordered the prosecution to ensure the transfer of all the exhibits before Justice Abang’s court to his court’s registry.
“I hereby direct the registry of the court to look at the proceedings of the court and mark accordingly,” he said and adjourned till December 15, 2020.

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