The ordeal of the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, worsened on Monday as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, ordered for his remand at Kuje Prison, pending the perfection of bail conditions set by the court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Suswam alongside two of his former aides, Omadachi Oklobia, a former Finance Commissioner in the state and Jeneth Aluga, a former Accountant General of Benue on 32-count charge.
The three defendants are already facing others charges at the same Federal High Court presided over by another Judge for corruption.
On Monday the EFCC accused the three of them of diverting the sum of N9.79bn being the Benue State share of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, SURE-P from the Federal Government.
The prosecution alleged in the 32-counts preferred against the defendants that the total sum of N9,791,602,453.8 was meant for the SURE-P scheme and a small fraction of it for police reform. But the money was allegedly diverted by the defendants between 2012 and 2015 while Suswam was the Governor of the state.
The prosecution accused the defendants of conspiracy, conversion of property derived directly from corruption, collaboration to conceal property derived from corruption, obtaining by false pretence and accepting cash payments exceeding the amount authorised by law.
The offences, according to the prosecution, were committed between 2012 and 2015.
The SURE-P scheme was set up by the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration following the part removal of fuel subsidy in 2012.
After their arraignment on 32-count charge, and having taken their plea, counsel Suswam, Taiwo Kawul moved the bail application.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, after listening to submissions from both the prosecution and defence counsel, granted the defendants bail.
The Judge granted each of the three defendants bail in the sum of N250m, among other conditions.
He also ordered that they be remanded in prison pending when the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation, of the Federal High Court, Abuja would inform the court that the bail conditions had been met.
Earlier, Justice Kolawole rejected the moves by the EFCC to seek for transfer of the trial of the former Governor from the Federal High Court in Abuja to Makurdi, Benue State
The prosecution had brought an application demanding that the trial be transferred to Benue State, saying the security situation there has been controlled and that there is peace in the state.
But the defence counsel, Taiwo Kawul objected, insisting that there is still crisis in Benue as different factions loyal to Suswam and the incumbent Governor, Samuel Ortom, are still fighting.
But the prosecutor refused the objection saying he can only agree for the trial to continue in Abuja if the defence counsel would make an undertaking that they will not challenge the trial on territorial jurisdiction.
Justice Kolawole, however, ruled that the trial will continue at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Suswam who recently was in the custody of the Department of State Security (DSS) for over a month on allegation of possession of firearm found inside the boot of his car is also standing trial for allegedly diverting about N3.1bn belonging to the government of Benue.
Recall that the Federal Government had on January 25, asked the court to adjourn sine die, fresh N7bn criminal charges filed against Suswam by the office of the Inspector-General of Police.
Recall also that Suswam had, on May 10, 2017, withdrew a N10bn fundamental human rights suit he earlier instituted against the DSS seeking an order of unconditional release from detention.
He had asked the Federal High Court to order the DSS to award him the N10bn as compensation for unlawful detention and violation of his rights.