Continued Detention of Suswam By DSS Stalls Trial

The trial of former Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, was stalled on Tuesday at a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, due to his continued detention by the State Security Service otherwise known as the DSS.
When the matter came up Tuesday before Justice Ahmed Mohammed, counsel to Suswam, Joseph Daudu, said his absence in court was not to disrespect the court but because of circumstances beyond the control of the defendant.
Daudu held: “The absence of the defendant is due to no fault of his. On Feb 26, he was invited by DSS and since that day he has been kept in detention without trial. No effort has been made to take him for trial to state their allegations against him.
“The first defendant is being prosecuted by Federal Government and last place he was seen is with an agent of Federal Government.
“The Federal Government is in the best position to say why he is not here. We don’t know what has happened to him. It is not in disrespect to this court that he is not here. The absence is not wilful or deliberate”, Daudu said.
The prosecution counsel, A. O. Afolabi said he has no objection, though, he said the two agencies belong to the Federal Government, but the EFCC was only involved in his prosecution and not in the detention of the defendant.
Both lawyers asked for a new date for continuation of trial.
The trial Judge Justice Ahmed Mohammed said being a criminal case, the trial cannot continue without the presence in court of the defendant.
He consequently adjourned the matter till May 9 for continuation of trial.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government through the Office of the Inspector General of Police, entered two separate criminal charges against Suswam on January 25, 2017.
The fresh charges said from 2007 to 2015, Suswam fraudulently diverted over N3.1bn from coffers of the state.
The two sets of charges marked FHC/ABJ/CR/255/ 2016 and FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2016, contained six and two counts respectively.
The Federal Government also cited former Commissioner of Finance in Benue state, Omodachi Okolobia and one Janet Aluga as co-defendants in the matter.
Suswam and Okolobia were previously docked on a nine-count money laundering charge. ‎The defendants who were arraigned on November 10, 2015, were accused of diverting proceeds of shares owned by the Benue State government and Benue Investment & Property Company Ltd.
Though they pleaded not guilty to the charge, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), however maintained that it has sufficient evidence to prove that they committed an offence punishable under section 15(3) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012.
However, on February 26, the DSS raided an apartment in Abuja, which the secret police alleged belongs to the embattled former Governor, where firearms were allegedly discovered in his exotic cars.
A statement issued by Tony Opuiyo for the DSS stated that the incriminating items were discovered in cars parked at Dunes Investment and Global Properties Ltd in Abuja.
“The Department of State Services (DSS) wishes to inform the public that on 24th February, 2017, between 2100 hours and 0242 hours, the service executed a search warrant, at the property of Dunes Investment and Global Properties Ltd, located at No 44 Aguiyi Ironsi Way, Maitama-Abuja,” the statement read.
Continuing, Opuiyo said: “The operation was informed by intelligence that some incriminating items were stashed in the boots of cars parked at the property, particularly a Mercedes Benz S550 (BWR 135AH), and Masarati 4.7 (BWR 207 AJ), which were subsequently confiscated.
“Consequently, on 25th February, 2017, about 1000hours, in the presence of two (2) private security officers employed by Dunes Investment, the cars were searched and the following items were recovered:
“Weapons: Glock pistol with two magazines and a total of 29 rounds of ammunition; mini-Uzi with two magazines containing 10 rounds and four rounds respectively; 42 extra rounds of ammunition contained in a pack; and one AK-47.
“Other items recovered include: 21 certificates of occupancy (C of O) and one offer of statutory right of occupancy; 23 luxury designer watches; and 45 keys to various exotic cars.
“Following this discovery, the service launched further investigation which revealed that the cars and the recovered items belong to the former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, who has already been invited by the service and presently helping in the investigations.”
Since then Suswam has remained in the custody of the DSS without being charged to court.

Author: News Editor

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