By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The federal government on Friday arraigned a former governor of Benue State Gabriel Suswam on a fresh three-count charge bordering on illegal possession of firearms and money laundering before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Suswam, in the charge filed against him on June 26, 2018, is been accused of illegally concealing weapons in his Mercedes Benz 550 4Matic car with Registration No: BWR 135 AH parked at Dunes Investment and Properties Ltd, No. 44 Aguiyi lronsi Way, Maitama, Abuja.
The offence is contrary to Section 3 of the Firearms Act Cap F28, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 27(1)(a)(1) of the same Act.
He was also accused of “Converting 25 designer wrist watches worth several millions of naira being properties you derived directly from corruption and concealed in your Mercedes Benz 550 4Matic with Registration No BWR 135 AH and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(1)(a)(ii) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under the same section of the Act”.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to him prompting the prosecution counsel, Abubakar Kayode Alilu, to ask the court for a date to commence trial. Aliu also prayed the court to remand the defendant in prison pending the hearing and determination of the matter.
Suswam’s counsel, Paul Erokoro (SAN), drew the attention of the court to a bail application, which he said was ripe for hearing Friday.
Moving the application, Erokoro told the trial judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri, to grant Suswam bail on liberal terms, pointing out that Suswam is on bail in two other charges filed against him by the federal government.
The bail application, which was based on eight grounds, an18-paragraph affidavit and an exhibit to the effect that Suswam has an enlarged heart, a life threatening condition, which he said requires regular medical attention and treatment.
According to him, all the facts in the affidavit in support of the application for bail are unchallenged, pointing out that the defendant is a legal practitioner, a two-term governor of Benue State and had served at the House of Representatives for eight years, and will not jump bail.
The prosecution counsel, who did not oppose Suswam’s bail application, urged the court to use its discretion in granting the bail and added that the prosecution intends to call four witnesses in the matter.
Having listened to submissions of the counsel on both sides, Justice Quadri admitted Suswam to bail in the sum of N500 million and one surety in like sum.
The judge said the surety, who must be resident in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), should also swear to an affidavit of means and that the surety’s residential address must be verified by officials of the court.
The surety, the court held, must also submit one passport photograph with the court as part of the bail conditions for the former governor and adjourned the matter till October 24 and 25, 2018.
Count one of the charge reads: “That you, Gabriel Suswam of Rio Negro, Maitama, Abuja, on or about the 24th day of February, 2017 at Dunes Investment and Properties Ltd, No. 44 Aguiyi lronsi Way, Maitama, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did commit an offence to wit: without lawful authority or licence, you had in your possession one(l) Gloek Pistol with Serial Number KML 275, one (1) Mini rifile with Serial Number 54976 and One(l) AK 47 with Serial Number 5622620063, which weapons were concealed in your Mercedes Benz 550 4Matic car with Registration No: BWR 135 AH and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3 of the Firearms Act Cap F28, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 27(1)(a)(1) of the same Act.”