Suswam’s Trial for Alleged N3.1bn Fraud Adjourned Till Oct 15
The trial of former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja was on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 adjourned till October 15, 2020.
Suswam and his then Commissioner of Finance Okolobia Okpanachi are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on a nine-count money laundering charge to the tune of N3.1 billion, allegedly being proceeds of sale of shares of Benue State Investment Company.
At today’s sitting, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs SAN asked for adjournment, having stated that he may not be able to go on with the proceedings because all his exhibits have suffered defacement as a result of being tendered from one court to another.
“All the exhibits have been retendered, changed to another exhibit in another court. They have been given a different identity. Some documents changed, were added and some excluded and so we need to meet to reconcile exhibits that were before my lord, before we can decide on the way forward.”
Jacobs also told the court that he intended to amend some aspects of the charge.
Suswam’s counsel, J P Daudu SAN before conceding to the prosecution for adjournment, argued that the court clerk knows what to do “even if the exhibits have been defaced.” He also noted that it was the prosecution’s right to amend charges at any time so long as such amendment did not conflict with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ACJA 2015.
Counsel to Okolobia, Audu Anuga noted that granting of adjournment was at the court’s discretion adding that “the court is enjoined to determine if the granting of the application is judicial or judicious.”
Justice Mohammed while granting the adjournment stated that although the case has been ordered to be given accelerated hearing, the court however will consider the prosecution’s application since the defence has also conceded to an adjournment in the interest of Justice.
Suswam’s trial has been a roller coaster between two different courts. The trial started in 2015 before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed who had to recuse himself twice from the matter after four witnesses had been called due to an accusation that he had received bribe from Suswam and would therefore give the defendant a slap on the wrist.
Following the development, the case was transferred to Justice Okon Abang’s court and started afresh it progressed to the point where four witnesses were also called before Suswam’s counsel challenged the reassignment of the case to Justice Abang at the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal in its ruling, ordered Justice Abang to withdraw from the case and for it to be returned to Justice Mohammed for continuation of trial.