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Judge withdraws from Suswam’s trial over alleged bribe

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday withdrew from the trial of a former Governor of Benue State, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, and the Commissioner of Finance in the immediate past administration, Mr. Omodachi Okolobia.

The judge said his decision to withdraw from the case followed a publication on an online medium, Saharareporters, accusing him of having been compromised to give Suswam a “soft landing.”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Suswam and Okolobia on money laundering charges involving the alleged diversion of N3,111,008,018.51, allegedly stolen from the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by the Benue State Government.

The fourth prosecution witness, Mr. Abubakar Umar, was to continue his testimony on Monday when the judge raised the issue of the online publication shortly after lawyers announced their appearance.

In his reaction, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN); Suswam’s lawyer, Mr. Joseph Daudu, and that of Okolobia all urged the judge to shun the report, which they said was the handiwork of mischief makers.

But in his ruling, Justice Mohammed said the best option was for him to withdraw from the case and remit the case file back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.

He conceded that the online publication ought not to be taken seriously as it had become the trend in recent times to accuse judges of all sort of wrongdoings.

The judge added that of late, Justices of both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal had come under similar attack.

He said with the publication, if he decided to continue with the case, the reasonable man on the street would say the report was true, if, at the end of the day, Suswam was acquitted and that “the same reasonable man” would say he had been intimidated by the report if the defendant was convicted.

He said, “It has happened to eminent Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. But the personality of Justice Ahmed Mohammed at this level is inconsequential.”

The judge stated that though he agreed that substantial progress had been made in the case, “It is still the case of the prosecution that is being done”.

Justice Mohammed added, “The allegation has affected the integrity of the Federal High Court.

“My honest view is that it is better for me to remit to the Chief Judge and allow the case to be re-assigned to another judge of the Federal High Court.”

With this development, if the case is re-assigned, the matter in which three prosecution witnesses had testified and the fourth was already giving his evidence-in-chief, will have to start afresh before the new judge.

Meanwhile, the EFCC abruptly cut short the testimony of one of its witnesses, Abubakar Umar, lined up against Suswam and Okolobia during the previous proceedings on May 5.

Midway into Umar’s testimony, the prosecuting counsel, Jacobs, sought for an adjournment to “put our house in order”.

Umar, owner of a Bureau de Change, Fanffash Resources, had, in his testimony, narrated how Suswam, while serving as Benue State Governor, allegedly instructed a cumulative transfer of N3.1bn into his company’s account between August and October 2014.

He said Suswam had instructed that the money be converted to dollar.

Led in evidence by Jacobs, the witness confirmed that the sum of N3.1bn was transferred to his firm’s account in six tranches.



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Posted by on Jun 6 2016. Filed under Benue, General Politics, Governors, Headlines, Raw Politics, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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