The arrest and detention of former Benue state Governor, Gabriel Suswam, in the past six days by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, at the Federal High Court in Abuja stalled his trial in the alleged N3.1b corruption charges brought against him by the Federal government.
Although, Suswam’s trial was billed to commence before Justice Ahmed Rahmat Mohammed, his counsel, Elizabeth Ogbozor, however protested that his client was been subjected to incessant arrests and detention by various security agencies.
The lawyer told the court that the leader of the defense team, Joseph Daudu, SAN, was not prepared for the trial of Suswam and had indeed scheduled himself for another matter at the Court of Appeal in Abuja because of Suswam’s detention.
The counsel told Justice Mohammed that Daudu SAN was not aware that his client was granted administrative bail by EFCC on Wednesday night, adding that the hope of having the defendant before the court had been foreclosed because of the EFCC’s refusal to allow his bail earlier in the week
“We have been at a loss as to the direction of this trial because the defendant (Suswam) had been in the custody of EFCC in the past six days. It is a big surprise to us to see Suswam in court this morning because we are unaware of his release on Wednesday night”.
The counsel told the court that the lead counsel had therefore instructed her to seek for an adjournment of the trial till November 23.
However, EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, admitted that Suswam was detained by his client but that the detention was based on another huge amount of money paid to the defendant by the former Minister of Petroleum, Allison Diezani Madueke to execute the 2015 general election for the Peoples Democratic Party PDP in Benue State.
Jacobs told the court that, Suswam was released on administrative bail on Tuesday after making statements to the anti-graft agency and that he was only able to perfect the bail condition on Wednesday.
Rather than adjourning the trial, the EFCC counsel pleaded for a stand down of the trial which the judge granted for four hours.
However, when the reality dawned on the court that Suswam’s lead counsel will not be able to make it to the court yesterday, the trial was put off till November 22.
Justice Mohammed however, warned that no one should cast aspersions or blame the court for the delay in the trial, adding that early in the year, Suswam was arrested by the Department of State Service (DSS) and was detained for close to six months on allegations of possessing guns unlawfully.
It would be recalled that Suswam and the Finance Commissioner under his administration Omodachi Okolobia are standing trial for allegedly defrauding Benue state government the sum of N3.1bn while in office.
They were on November 10, 2015 arraigned before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 9-count charge bordering on allegations of financial impropriety and money laundering.