ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – A star witness has testified to the Federal High Court (FHC) in Abuja that the Board of Benue Investment and Property Company Ltd (IPCL) approved the sales of N10 billion worth shares of the company to finance some key projects during the administration of former Governor Gabriel Suswan.
The witness at the resumed trial on Tuesday, said that the shares in various stock broking companies were sold through a private firm, Exhlir Nigeria Ltd at about N9b on the final directive of the ex-governor.
Testifying in a charge brought against Suswan, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer BIPCL, Mrs. Brijid Shiedu, said that the five-man board headed by Gen. John Atom Kpera (rtd) was, however, appointed by the former governor.
She told Justice Ahmed Mohammed how Suswan 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.
The witness, who was led in evidence by EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said that she also got approval in writing from the former governor before the sales were carried out.
She further testified that after the sales, a sum of N1 billion was earmarked and paid into the Benue State Investment Company while other payments were made into the account of the State Ministry of Finance and one other company.
The witness told the court that a written approval was secured from the then State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Okolobi Okpanachi, before payments into various accounts were made.
However, attempt to tender some of the letters generated heated argument as counsel to Suswan, Mr. Tawo E. Tawo (SAN), insisted that Benue Investment Company was not a public organisation and that it has no law establishing it.
He urged Justice Mohammed not to admit the letters said to have emanated from the office of the former governor, former finance commissioner and the company.
But Jacobs insisted that the company was a government agency by virtue of the fact that its managing director was a public officer.
Justice Mohammed, while admitting the letters as exhibits, directed the lawyers to address the court on the status of the company at the address stage.
The EFCC had put Suswan and his ormer Commissioner for Finance (Okpanachi) on trial on the allegation that he sold off shares belonging to Benue State Investment and Property Limited worth N10 billion without the consent of the State House of Assembly and allegedly diverted the proceeds to personal use.
The former governor is also being tried for an offence of breach of trust and money laundering.
Further hearing has been fixed for February 15.