The Abuja federal high court, Abuja, has ordered the Department of State Services, DSS, to produce the former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam in court on May 11 for his arraignment.
Suswam is accused by the federal government of diverting about N9.7 billion being part of funds from the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, during his time as governor.
Two other persons that are joined in the 32-count suit include Benue State’s former Commissioner of Finance, Omadachi Oklobia and former Accountant of the state’s government house, Janet Aluga.
However, the former governor’s arraignment at the court was stalled as he had been invited by the DSS for questioning, after which he was detained.
Suswam’s invitation and subsequent detention by the DSS was reportedly on allegations of illegal possession of firearms.
At the resumption of hearing on Tuesday, the prosecuting counsel, Aminu Alilu, told the court that the first accused person could not be served because he was still in the custody of the DSS.
He explained that since efforts to serve him failed, “we served his counsel in compliance with Section 379 (3) of the ACJA, instead.”
However, Suswam’s lawyer, Adedayo Adedeji, said that the prosecution misled the court by saying that his client refused to be served.
He said: “Yesterday at about 3: p.m. two officers from the police walked into our office, seeking to serve Suswam, but because of respect for this court, we received it.
“Our objection is that being an originating summons, the first defendant ought to have been served personally.
“The fact that we are representing him in another matter does not mean that we must represent him in all of his cases. We were never briefed by Suswam to represent him in this case.
“It cannot now be correct to say that Suswam refused to be served, we submit that in the absence of the first defendant, this matter cannot goon.”
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in his ruling, ordered the DSS to ensure that Suswam was present in court in the next adjourned date.
The judge also allowed the second and third defendants to continue enjoying their administrative bail.
He later adjourned the matter till May 11 for the arraignment of the defendants.