The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday re-arraigned former Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam with a former Finance Commissioner, Omadachi Oklobia on an amended 11-count fraud related charges before a Federal High Court in Abuja on.
The EFCC amended the earlier nine-count charge on which the defendants were first arraigned in 2015, raising the counts to 11.
Suswam (now a Senator representing Benue North-East Senatorial District) was Benue State Governor between 2007 and 2015, while Oklobia served as Finance Commissioner, a period during which they allegedly committed the said offence.
They are accused, among others, of diverting about N3.1billion, which the EFCC claimed formed part of the proceeds of 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 the case started afresh and progressed, with the prosecution calling 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 case 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 then ordered the prosecution to ensure the transfer of all the exhibits before Justice Abang’s court to his court’s registry.
“I hereby directed 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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