Suswam directed payment of N1b into firm’s accounts, says witness

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MANAGING Director, Benue State Investment and Property Limited, Bridget Shiedu, yesterday told a Federal High Court, Abuja that former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, instructed the payment of N1billion into Elixir Securities Limited.

Speaking before Justice Ramat Mohammed, Shiedu disclosed that the said N1billion was part of proceeds from the sale of the Benue State securities worth N3.1billion.

Shiedu, a prosecuting witness 2 (PW2) in the case instituted against Suswam and his Commissioner of Finance, Omodachi Okolobia, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting proceeds of sale of the state-owned shares, stated that Okolobia personally sent her two account numbers belonging to Elixir Securities Limited for the proceeds on the sale of the shares.

Suswam had appeared in the court yesterday alongside his commissioner and by 12 noon, both were docked as the EFCC took her position.

Prompted by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, the witness gave an account of how she encountered the first and second defendants (Suswam and Okolobia) by virtue of her position in the company.

On resumption of trial, she informed the court that after some discussions with Suswam and Okolobia on diversification of state investments, as there was a concentration in Dangote Cement and Julius Berger, which was considered risky, they opted for investment in securities.

She said: “Elixir Securities Limited was introduced to us by Okolobia. He said they needed to diversify the investment of the state government because there was concentration of investment in two basic stocks – the Dangote Cement and Julius Berger Plc.

“Therefore, investment should be diversified to include other securities. There was a time the regulatory authority of Nigerian exchange market and Nigerian stock exchange gave a directive that all securities should dematerialize.

“In compliance, the company turned over her shares to the BIC Securities Limited and in the course of putting the shares in the CSCS caring system, and the transactions that were being done in the bank, some of the shares ended up with other stock broking firms.

“When the state government discovered this position, it took a decision that the shares should be brought back into one stock broking firm. By this time, the stock broking firm that had the shares was no longer in existence.

“So, Elixir Security Limited was invited by the government to carry out a check of where the shares were domiciled and bring them together into the stock broking house. In the course of this, they needed us to sign documents”.

She added that she instructed the account department to effect payment following her discussions with the commissioner. “I communicated the account to pay the N1b to Elixirs Securities after I had discussed with the commissioner and got the clarification”, she said.

However, the court admitted the documents after counsel to both the first and second defendants declined to submit their objections at this stage.

Counsel to Suswam, Joseph Daudu (SAN) had declined cross examination on the ground that he needed to study the documents first.
He consequently moved for an adjournment to enable him prepare for his cross examination of the witness. Justice Mohammed adjourned the trial till today.

Both Suswan and Okolobia are being prosecuted by the EFCC on a 9- count charge bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and obtaining by false pretense to the tune of N3.1billion.

Suswan and Okolobia were alleged to have diverted the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by the Benue State government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited.

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