- EFCC accused them of diverting N3.1 billion proceeds from the state government’s shares held on behalf of the state by the Benue Investment and Property Company Limited in some firms
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday, concluded its case against Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of Benue State, in a money laundering trial involving N3.1 billion allegedly diverted from the state’s treasury.
EFCC lawyer, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, closed the prosecution’s case after the eighth prosecution witness, Adewale Agunbiade, finished testifying before the trial judge, Ahmed Mohammed, on Wednesday.
Mr Suswam and his former finance commissioner, Omadachi Oklobia, were arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja on an 11-count amended charge in 2015.
EFCC accused them of diverting N3.1 billion proceeds from the state government’s shares held on behalf of the state by the Benue Investment and Property Company Limited in some firms.
The case has lingered for eight years; journeying between two judges of the court – Mr Mohammed and Okon Abang, who has been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
During his testimony, Mr Agunbiade, a compliance officer at Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), told the court that Mr Suswam operated two accounts with the bank, a naira account and a dollar account.
He revealed that over $200,000 was deposited in the dollar account between August 2014 and July 2015.
Mr Agunbiade said Mr Suswam personally paid $175,000 into the account between 18 February and 2 July 2015, a total of $175,000 was paid in as a cash deposit at the Garki Area 11 branch in Abuja.
In aid of his case, the prosecution lawyer tendered some documents through Mr Agunbiade. The documents were statements of transactions in both accounts from January 2007 to 31 December 2015.
Mr Agunbiade detailed other transactions on the dollar account to include – an 8 August 2014, cash deposit of $10,000 by one Ibrahim A at a GTB branch at Ikoyi in Lagos.
“On 11 August 2014, there was a cash deposit of $10,000 by Aremu at Garki, Area 3 branch; on 29 September 2014, a cash deposit of $10,000 was made by Ibrahim Sanni Magaji at Wapa, Kano branch.
“On 29 October 2014, a cash deposit of $10,000 paid by self was made at Garki, Area 11 branch in the FCT; on 30 October 2014, a cash deposit by self of $10,000 was made at Area 11 Garki branch.
“On 3 November 2014, a cash deposit of $10000 by self was paid at Area 11, Garki branch; on 17 February 2015, a cash deposit of $20,000 was made by self at Area 11, Garki branch,” Mr Agunbiade disclosed.
While being cross-examined by Mr Suswam’s lawyer, Chinelo Ogbozor, the witness said he became a compliance officer at GTB in September 2020.
He said there were substantial steady credit inflows into the dollar account from 14 September 2011 to 16 September 2015.
However, Mr Agunbiade said the credit inflows between 2014 and 2 July 2015 were not unusual.
Asked if the two accounts were currently blocked, the witness said, “I do not know the status of the accounts as of today, but I believe they were restricted at some point.
“I do not know the circumstances under which the accounts were restricted. I do not know if there is a court order freezing the accounts.”
Thereafter, Mr Oklobia’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), cross-examined the witness.
Mr Agunbiade told the court that it was the EFCC that wrote GTB to demand information about the accounts.
Asked if the transactions were in breach of any law, Mr Agunbiade said: “I did not notice any infraction in the transactions in the accounts.”
The prosecution thereafter closed its case after Mr Agunbiade’s testimony came to an end.
Oklobia seeks no-case submission
Mr Oklobia’s lawyer, Mr Erokoro, told the judge that the erstwhile finance commissioner would make a no-case submission, which he said he could file within two weeks.
A no-case submission is filed by a defendant at the end of the prosecution’s case, asking the court for an acquittal without having him or her present a defence. Such filing is anchored on the presumption by the defendant that the prosecution, with all its witnesses and evidence tendered while making its case, failed to link him or her to the alleged crimes.
The judge thereafter adjourned the case until 9 January 2024 for the adoption of Mr Oklobia’s no-case submission.
Mr Suswam ruled Benue State from 2007 to 2015 and was succeeded by Samuel Ortom.
He was later elected a senator in 2019 when he represented Benue Northeast senatorial district.