A Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, was on Monday and Tuesday told how former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, diverted the sum of N3.1 billion realised by the state government from the sale its shares in the Benue Investment and Property Company Limited.
Both Suswam and his former finance commissioner, Omodachi Okolobia, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a nine-count charge of money laundering, abuse of office and obtaining about N3.1 by false pretense.
A key witness called by the EFCC, Brigid Shiedu, the managing director, Benue State Investment and property Limited, told Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that the governor and finance commissioner instructed her to sell the state’s share in the company and provided two accounts into which the proceeds of the sale should be paid.
Sheidu, who was presented to the court by the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacos, said that her duties in the company included coordinating the general activities of the agency and implementing decisions taken by the board of directors.
“I was invited to the Government House by Suswam who was with Okolobia, for discussion on the sale of some of Benue State shares held in trust with Benue State Investment Limited,” she stated. Continuing, she said that Suswam, “directed the sale of the shares after our meeting and the former commissioner sent two account numbers to me.”
Earlier, on Monday, , while also testifying in the court, an operative of the EFCC, Junaid Sa’id, had said that Suswam diverted proceeds from the sale of Benue State government’s share in the Benue Investment and Property Company Limited. The former governor, he stated, ordered the shares sold through a stock brokerage firm, Elixir Investment Partners Limited.
While being cross examined by Suswam’s counsel, Joseph Daudu, SAN, Sa’id told the court that his investigation revealed that an offence had been committed going by the way the proceeds from the sale was managed..
“I can confidently say that, there is an offense from where the money is laundered”, Sa’id maintained The witness told the court that the allegations in the petition against Suswam include “diversion of N6bn of Ecological funds for 8 years for Benue State government; diversion of N1bn from the money realized from the sale of Taraku Vegetable Oil Company limited; diversion of N25bn from local government account; taking loans and bonds from capital market for the purpose of providing infrastructure worth N12bn; being the owner of Metropolitan Hotel which he sold it to Benue State government, taking up a property from his brother and paying N60m monthly to him as rent; selling the International Modern market without approval from the state house of Assembly; and finally, non-execution of most of the capital project earmarked”
The case has been adjourned to February 15 for continuation of trial.