FG to arraign Suswam, 2 others over alleged diversion of N9.7bn SURE-P fund

Barring any last minute change, former governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, will, this morning, be arraigned before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, by the Federal Government, over alleged diversion of N9.7 billion while in office.

Already, the case has been listed on the court’s cause list for arraignment.

Suswam will be arraigned on a 32- counts fresh money laundering  charge alongside Omadachi Oklobia, his former commissioner of Finance and Janet Aluga, former accountant, Benue State Government House Administration. 

According to the prosecution, in the charge marked  FHC/ABJ/CR/48/2017, part of the money  was meant for police reform and Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).

The prosecution alleged that Suswam and others cornered the said funds between 2012 and 2015 while Suswam was Benue governor.

Meanwhile, an Abuja based legal practitioner, Mr. Igbatule Dugwer has accused  Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state of having a hand in Suswam’s legal battles.

In a statement, yesterday, Dugwer claimed “Suswam  has been detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) upon the active instigation of Ortom, on allegation of illegal possession of Arms since February 25, 2017 till date.”

He further alleged that Suswam’s predicament was due to the governor’s vow to ensure that the ex governor “remains behind bars until local government elections are concluded in Benue, in June 2017.”

He, however, added that “what is news is the desperation he is showing in his recent attempts to keep Suswam perpetually in detention,” the legal practitioner said.

Regardless,  the fresh charges against Suswam, signed by a counsel in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Aminu Alilu, and Kehinde Fagbemi, accused the defendants of conspiracy, conversion of property derived directly from corruption; collaboration to conceal property derived from corruption; obtaining by false pretences and accepting cash payments, exceeding the amount authorised by law.

The offences were said to be contrary to and punishable under various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act.

In counts one and two, the prosecution alleged that the defendants, between August 8 and March 15, 2015, conspired and converted the sum of N4,135,208,404.90 allegedly “derived directly from corruption”.

The money was said to have been taken “from the Benue State SURE-P account number 0116099195, domiciled in Guaranty Trust Bank, into various illegal accounts with the aim of concealing the money.”

The prosecution, in counts three and four, accused the defendants of committing similar offences by transferring the sum of N2,975,329,418.88 from SURE-P account to illegal accounts between August 8 and March 16, 2015.

The amount mentioned between counts one and four amounted to a total of N7,110,537,823.78.

From count five to nine, the prosecution also accused the three defendants of conspiracy, collaboration to conceal, obtaining by false pretences and conversion of a cumulative sum of N7,110,537,823.78, allegedly derived directly from corruption.

The Federal Government also levelled similar allegations as well as acceptance of payments unauthorised by law from counts 10 to 14 against the defendants with respect to a cumulative sum of N1,970,662,130.00.

The defendants allegedly “obtained” the money “from the Benue State Government for the benefit of yourselves and other unentitled persons” between June 27, 2014 and April 24, 2015.

Meanwhile, former Senate President, David Mark has assured members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue, that everything within the law will be done to secure Suswam’s release.

Mark gave the assurance at a caucus meeting of the party  at the PDP Secretariat in Makurdi, capital of Benue, yesterday,

He vowed to deploy his energy in ensuring that the former governor “is a free man within a reasonable time” as well as work for the success of the party in the forthcoming local government elections in the state.

Earlier, State PDP chairman of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee, Chief John Ngbede, expressed appreciation that senator Mark came to throw his weight behind the party in the state.

He said with that move, it has erased fear that the Dan Ale and camp of the National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu  Sheriff would threaten party primaries in the state.

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