The detention of former Benue governor, Gabriel Suswam by the Department of State Services (DSS), on Tuesday stalled his ongoing N3.1 billion fraud trial in the Federal High Court Abuja. When the matter was called up, Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN), counsel to Suswam told the court that his client was absent in court on account of his detention.
“The absence of the defendant in court is due to no fault of his. On Feb. 24, over a month ago, he was invited by the DSS and since that day he has been kept in detention without trial. “Also, no effort has been made to take him to court irrespective of the allegation they have against him.” “If the prosecutor is not aware of the reason for his absence in court, I am by this statement from the bar, making him aware so that he can find out why he (Suswam) is being kept in detention without trial.”
The lawyer maintained that Suswam’s absence was not out of disrespect for the court, but only because he was being held against his will and prayed the court for an adjournment. The prosecuting counsel , Mr A.O. Atolagbe , had wondered why the defendant was not in court even though he was on bail. Atolagbe further told the court that he was prosecuting for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and not for the DSS who is currently detaining the defendant.
He said an adjournment was inevitable so as to ensure that the defendant was present in court. In his ruling, the judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, said that since it was a criminal matter, it could not go on in the absence of Suswam, the first defendant. He adjourned the matter till May 9. Suswam and his former Commissioner for Finance, Mr Omadachi Oklobia , are standing trial for allegedly diverting about N3.1 billion belonging to the government of Benue.
They are also being tried for alleged money laundering and breach of public trust while in office. The Federal Government had on Jan. 25, asked the court to adjourn indefinitely, the fresh N7 billion alleged criminal misappropriation charges filed against Suswam from the office of the Inspector-General of Police (I-G). The prosecuting counsel, Mr David Igbodo , had asked the court for an adjournment to enable the I-G and the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.