Witness in Suswam’s trial admits $2m spent on state projects

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EFCC to call four witnesses against Atuche, Ojo
THERE was a mild drama yesterday at the Federal High Court as the prosecution witness, one Bridget Sheidu admitted that the sum of $2,175,000 – part of the money alleged to have been diverted by former Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam, was spent on state’s project.

In a cross examination by the defense counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), the witness agreed that the said sum was paid into Zenith Bank being the counterpart funding in a joint project with San Karlos Benue Farm Limited, the Nigerian arm of San Carlos Mexican Company.

Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) yesterday said it would call four witnesses to testify against former bank chiefs, Francis Atuche and Philip Ojo who are standing trial before a Federal High Court, Lagos over an alleged offence of N125 billion fraud leveled against them.

According to the witness, the money was part of the proceeds from share divestment, the subject matter of the charge against the former governor and his Commissioner for Finance, Okolobia Omodachi.

The witness however claimed ignorance of the fact that previous governors also invested proceeds from sales of Benue Investment Company Limited shares.

Daudu had told the court that during the tenure of George Akume as Benue governor, 33,440,887 units of Benue Investment Company’s shares were sold by the brokers, AIL.

Also, the same day, 2,764,800 units of Julius Bergers shares was sold as well as 12,358,650 units of Afribank Nigeria Plc shares.

These facts may have provoked the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) to seek to re-examine his witness which was overruled.

Every effort made by Jacobs to sustain his argument proved abortive as the court adjourned hearing till March 2.

Atuche, a former managing director of Bank PHB, now Keystone Bank Plc, and the former managing director of the defunct Spring Bank Plc, Charles Ojo, are before the court on an amended 45-count charge bordering on alleged fraud, conspiracy, reckless granting and approval of loans between September 1, 2006 and 2009.

The anti-graft agency through its counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro (SAN) at the resumed hearing yesterday said they would call the witnesses to prove their case.

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