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Again, EFCC arraigns Suswam, ex-commissioner for N3.1bn fraud charges

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Again, EFCC arraigns Suswam, ex-commissioner for N3.1bn fraud charges


Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday re-arraigned a former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam, along with the state former Commissioner for Finance, Mr Omodachi Okolobia, on amended charges of money laundering allegedly involving about N3.1bn of the government’s fund.

The re-arraignment followed the amendment to the charges which saw the number of counts increase from nine to 11.

Among the fresh counts are the ones in which Okolobia was accused of transacting with a total cash sum of N578m in four tranches, each of which was said to exceed the threshold of cash transactions allowed by the money laundering law.

The former commissioner allegedly committed the offences between December 2014 and January 2015.

Both Suswam and Okolobia pleaded not guilty to the amended 11 counts on Monday.

Recall that the EFCC had in 2015 charged Suswam, who currently represents Benue North-East in the Senate, alongside  Okolobia, with money laundering and diversion of N3,111,008,018.51 belonging to Benue State.

The defendants were originally arraigned before Justice Ahmed Mohammed who had twice withdrawn from the case.

The judge withdrew from the case on June 6, 2016, citing a publication by SaharaReporters, which accused him of having been compromised to give Suswam a “soft landing”.

But he later reversed his decision and thereafter continued hearing the case.

However, following another story published by SaharaReporters levelling similar allegation against him, the judge, in July 5, 2019, again withdrew from the case.

The case was then re-assigned to Justice Okon Abang of the same Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

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But the case made the second return to the Justice Mohammed following the February 19, 2020 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which ordered Justice Abang to withdraw from the case and transfer the case file back to the former judge.

After the defendants were re-arraigned on Monday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe, informed the judge that the prosecution had, following the advice of the central registry of the court, withdrawn the exhibits already tendered before Justice Abang.

He urged the judge to direct the lawyers representing various parties in the case to hold a meeting with the court’s registrars in order to sort out and return to the court’s file all exhibits that had been admitted before the case was reassigned to Justice Abang.

Suswam’s lawyer urged the judge to exercise his discretion in arriving at a decision.

But Okolobia’s lawyer, Mr Audi Aloga, urged the court to dismiss the prosecution’s request.

The judge directed the court registrar to accept the exhibits from the prosecution using the records of proceedings to identify which of them had been previously admitted in the course of the trial.

He adjourned the case till December 15 for continuation of trial.

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