EFCC closes case in alleged N3.1bn suit against Suswam, Oklobia

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By Taiye Agbaje
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday, closed its case in the trial of former Gov. Gabriel Suswam of Benue and his co-defendant and ex-Finance Commissioner during his tenure, Omadachi Oklobia, after calling eight witnesses.
EFCC’s Counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, informed Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High Court, Abuja that he would be closing his case at the conclusion of the testimony of 8th prosecution witness (PW8), Adewale Agunbiade.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the anti-graft agency had, in the 11-count amended charge  dated Oct. 15, 2020, accused the duo of diverting N3.1 billion belonging to the state.
The EFCC alleged that the money formed part of the proceeds of the sale of shares owned by Benue and its firm, Benue Investment and Property Company Limited in some companies.
Upon resumed hearing on Wednesday, Atolagbe told the court of the presence of his last witness, Agunbiade, a Compliance Officer with Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), in court.
The PW8 told the court that Suswam operated a naira account and a dollar account with the bank.
The witness said over $200,000 was deposited in the dollar account between Aug. 2014 and July 2015 in tranches.
He said Suswam, on his own, paid a total of $175,000 in cash into the account between Feb. 18 and July, 2, 2015, at the Garki Area 11 branch.
The prosecution tendered some documents through the witness, including statements of transaction in both accounts from Jan. 2007 to Dec. 31, 2015.
Reading from the statement of account, Agunbiade gave details of other transactions in the dollar account to include August 8, 2014 where he said that a cash deposit of $10,000 was made by Ibrahim A.at the Ikoyi branch of the bank.
“On 11th August,  2014, there was a cash deposit of $10,000 dollars by Aremu at Garki, Area 3 branch; on 29th September, 2014, a cash deposit of $10,000 was made by Ibrahim Sanni Magaji at Wapa, Kano branch.
“On 29th October, 2014, a cash deposit of $10,000 paid by self was made at Garki, Area 11 branch in the FCT; on 30 October, 2014, a cash deposit by self of $10,000 was made at Area 11 Garki branch.
“On 3rd November, 2014, a cash deposit of $10000 by self was paid at Area 11, Garki branch; on 17th February, 2015, a cash deposit of $20,000 was made by self at Area 11, Garki branch,” the witness said.
During cross examination by Suswam’s lawyer, Chinelo Ogbozor, the witness said he became a compliance officer in GTB in Sept. 2020.
Agunbiade said there were substantial steady credit inflows into the dollar account between Sept. 14, 2011 and Sept. 16, 2015,
The PW8 said the credit inflows between 2014 and July 2, 2015 were not unusual.
When asked if the two accounts were currently blocked, the witness said: “I do not know the status of the accounts as at today, but I believe they were restricted at some point.
“I do not know the circumstances under which the accounts were restricted. I do not know if there is a court order freezing the accounts.”
Agunbiade, while being cross examined by Oklobia’s counsel, Paul Erokoro, SAN, said it was the EFCC that wrote his bank to demand for information about the accounts.
On whether the transactions in the accounts breached any known regulation, the witness said: “I did not notice any infraction in the transactions in the accounts.”
While Ogbozor told the court that she would need time to consult with her client on what next step to take after EFCC closed its case, Erokoro told the court that his client would opt for a no-case submission, which he said would be filed within two weeks.
Justice Mohammed, consequently, adjourned until Jan. 9, JN. 10 and Jan. 11, 2024 for the adoption of the 2nd defendant’s written address in respect of his no-case submission and the possible opening of defence by the 1st defendant.(NAN)(www.nannnews.ng)
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Edited by Sadiya Hamza

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