By Olalekan Awojodu
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has re-arraigned former Benue Governor, Gabriel Suswam, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Suswam and former Commissioner of Finance during his administration, Omadachi Okolobia, were arraigned before Justice Ahmed Mohammed on 11-count charge bordering on money laundering.
The defendants were being prosecuted on N3.1 billion money laundering charges.
Suswam, who represents Benue North-East Senatorial District, is the 1st defendant in the suit while Okolobia is the 2nd defendant.
Recall that the duo were initially arraigned before Justice Mohammed in 2015 on a nine count before the case was transferred to Justice Okon Abang of the same jurisdiction.
They alleged to have diverted the money which was said to be part of the proceeds of the sale of some shares of Benue in a company.
Justice Mohammed had recused himself twice from the case before a former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Adamu Kafarati.
Mohammed later withdrew from the case due to allegations from a publication that he received bribes in order to give Suswam a “soft landing.”
The case was then reassigned to Justice Abang.
However, the Court of Appeal had, on Feb. 19, ordered that the case file with suit number: FHC/CR/ABJ/362/2015, involving Suswam and Okolobia, be returned to Justice Mohammed who started the case.
The development followed the defence counsel’s dissatisfaction with Justice Mohammed’s action, leading to the reassignment of the case to Justice Abang.
But at the resumed hearing on Monday, EFCC Lawyer, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, told Justice Mohammed that the agency had an amended charge dated and filed on Oct. 15.
He said, “I humbly apply under Sections 216 and 218 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 for this honourable court to accept the amended charge and direct that the defendants take their plea on the charge subject to the convenience of the court,”
Counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, Adedayo Adedeji and Audu Aloga respectively, did not oppose the application.
The judge then accepted the amended charge and ordered it to be read to the defendants.
In the counts, Okolobia was alleged to have accepted cash payments in the sum of N128 million, N100 million, N150 million and N200 million at different occasions from one Gera James, a non-financial institution, which were said to have exceeded the threshold authorised by law and contrary to the Money Laundromat Act.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Justice Mohammed, who adjourned the matter until Dec. 15, ordered the prosecution counsel to transfer all the exhibits before Justice Abang to his court registry.
He ruled, “I hereby direct the registry of the court to look at the proceedings of the court and mark accordingly,”