Lawyers Disappointed As EFCC Fails to Arraign Suswam Over N3.1bn Fraud Charges

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ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – The anticipated arraignment of former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged money laundering and corruption charges before the Federal High Court (FHC) in Abuja, failed to take place on Wednesday.
Some journalists and lawyers who had besieged the court premises on Wednesday following a statement from the EFCC over the planned arraignment, were disappointed after waiting for several hours without any action.
Although the anti-graft agency had filed a nine-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N3.1 billion against Suswam allegedly committed when he was the governor of Benue State from 2007 to 2015, the case file was however, yet to be assigned to a judge of the court for adjudication by the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta.
Besides, Justice Auta was said to be attending a seminar organised for judges outside the court premises.
Having waited several hours, it was one of the prosecution counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) who told journalists that the arraignment was not going hold as planned, as the case file was yet to be assigned to a particular Judge.
Jacobs came to the court complex in company of another prosecution counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, who was among several other lawyers who were in court in respect of the case.
Suswam and his former finance commissioner, Mr. Omodachi Okolobia were alleged to have diverted the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by the Benue State Government and Benue Investment and Property Company Ltd.
The offence is punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 20111 as amended in 2012.
The EFCC had grilled Suswam and Oklobia, for many days last month but released them on administrative bail.
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The two men, it was learned from their interrogators, were shown documents relating to the alleged crimes preferred against them and they were asked to defend themselves to enable the commission to determine their culpability or otherwise.
While Suswam is facing the trial by the EFCC, he had successfully stopped his probe by the state governor, Samuel Ortom, by securing the order of the Benue State High Court to restrain the commission of inquiry raised by the governor from investigating his tenure. It is not clear if Suswam will also get the same court to restrain the EFCC from proceeding with his trial.
In a related development, a group under the auspices of Benue Coalition for Justice, Equity and Fairness has alleged that the invitation of the former governor, by the EFCC was the handiwork of some political heavy weights in the state.
The group in a statement signed by its National President, Peter Hwande and Secretary General, Ogbole Alechenu, condemned the moves by Ortom to probe his predecessor, and expressed regret that pressing issues of governance had been allegedly relegated to the background in the state in preference for a witch-hunt.
The group claimed that Suswam’s era represented the best period for the state since 1999, but for the unfortunate delayed salaries, which became the bane of the entire country in the last two years as a result of the global economic meltdown.

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