- Judge recuses self from Suswam’s trial
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The federal government has closed its case in the trial of the former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye, who is standing trial for alleged diversion of about N1.162billion ecological fund meant for the state in 2004, after the 10th prosecution witness ended its evidence.
The witness, Mr. Mohammed Kawu Mohammed, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), testifying before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of an Abuja High Court at Gudu, stated that the EFCC took possession of a property belonging to Dariye at Asokoro in Abuja.
Mohammed who is attached to the Assets Forfeiture and Recovery section of the EFCC, revealed that his team took over the ownership of the property in 2012 following an interim forfeiture order from a High Court.
While disclosing that the said property was put on lease by the EFCC, the witness added that the sum of N67 million was realised as rent from the venture.
However, during cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr. Garba Pwul (SAN), the witness said he was not part of the investigative team that probed the former governor in 2007.
He said:”I did not participate in the investigation of Chief Dariye. Therefore, I have no idea of how the charges came up.”
Dariye was Governor of Plateau State between 1999 and 2007, though his tenure was interrupted by an impeachment in November, 2006, which lasted for months until he was reinstated by the Supreme Court in April, 2007.
The former governor is now the senator representing Plateau Central in the National Assembly.
The ninth prosecution witness who is a retired detective with the Metropolitan Police in London, Mr. Peter Clerk, at the last adjourned date, narrated to the court the operations that led to the arrest of Dariye, in September 2004.
The witness, who indicated that he started investigating Dariye in January 2004, said Dariye was arrested in his hotel room on September 28, 2004, while on a visit to London.
Meanwhile, the trial judge in the alleged money laundering and criminal breach of trust against former Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswan and one other, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed, yesterday withdrew from the case.
Mohammed said his withdrawal was based on an allegation by an international online medium that he had been compromised by the defendant to give judgment in his favour.
At the resumed trial yesterday, Justice Mohammed stated that the said publication was capable of bringing both the court and the institution of justice to disrepute in the eyes of the ordinary Nigerian.
According to him, the court had been caught in- between two devils because wherever the pendulum of the decision went at the end of the trial, the issue of the trial would be used to justify or rubbish the outcome of the trial.
Mohammed therefore went ahead to announce his withdrawal from the trial and the transfer of the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta for reassignment to another judge.
Before his decision, both counsel to the federal government, Rotimi Jacobs, (SAN) and that of Suswan, Joseph Daudu (SAN), had appealed to the judge to disregard and discountenance the offending publication, and proceed with the trial.
They urged him not to be provoked by the publication and promised him of their respect and confidence in the court.
Both Suswam and a former Commissioner for Finance, Omodachi Okolobia are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a nine-count charge bordering on money laundering, abuse of office and obtaining by false pretense to the tune of N3.1billion.
They 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.
The offence is punishable under Section 15, sub-section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act as amended in 2012.
The offence is punishable under Section 15, Sub-section 3 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act as amended in 2012.
So far, four of the prosecution witnesses had given their testimonies with three already cross-examined by the defence.
If Mohammed’s withdrawal is accepted by the chief judge and the matter reassigned to another court, it therefore means, the case would have to commence afresh.