Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The trial of former Governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam over alleged N3.1 billion money laundering offence resumed Thursday before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Justice Mohammed had twice withdrawn from the case in 2016 and 2019 over allegations of compromised.
Specifically, the judge first withdrew from the case on June 6, 2016, citing an online publication that accused him of compromise to give Suswam a “soft landing”.
He again withdrew from the trial through a letter dated July 5, 2019, and returned the case file to the court’s Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, for re-assignment to another judge.
But following the judgment of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal, the proceedings were terminated before Justice Okon Abang who had taken over the case from Justice Mohammed’s court.
Suswam alongside his then Commissioner of Finance, Omodachi Okolobia, are being prosecuted by by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on money laundering charges involving an alleged diversion of a total sum of N3,111,008,018.51 belonging to Benue State.
The money, the prosecution alleged, has been stolen from the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by the Benue State Government.
Prosecution counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, and defence lawyer, Chinelo Ogbozor, urged the court to adjourn the case continuation of trial by virtue of the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
On his part, Okolobia’s lawyer, Audu Aloga, who blamed the prosecution for the delay in the resumption of the trial, urged the court to either adjourn for trial or strike out the charges for want of diligent prosecution.
Responding to Aloga, the prosecuting counsel described the application for the striking out of the charges as unfortunate and baseless.
Justice Mohammed jettisoned the request for the striking out of the case and fixed September 30 for continuation of trial.