THE Federal Government on Monday arraigned former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, his Commissioner of Finance, Omadachi Oklobia and a former accountant of the Benue State Government House, Janeth Aluga on a 32-count charge bordering on money laundering and fraud to a tune of N9.8 billion.
They were alleged to have conspired and transferred the sum of N9,791,602,453.8 from the Benue State Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, SURE-P account with Zenith and the GT Banks into illegal accounts with the aim of concealing the money.
The SURE-P programme was set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan administration following the part removal of fuel subsidy in 2012.
The money was allegedly diverted by the defendants between 2012 and 2015 while Suswam held sway as the governor of the state.
Former governor Suswam and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them and the prosecution counsel, A. Aliyu asked the court for a date for the prosecution to open its case and that the defendants be remanded in prison custody.
But Suswam and Oklobia’s counsel, Taiwo E. Taiwo, as well as Innocent Daagba who represented Janeth Aluga moved the application for the bail of the defendants.
Taiwo informed the court that the defendants are facing another criminal charge before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed, and that they have been on bail on the terms granted them by the court.
The bail application was not opposed by the prosecution counsel but urged the court to exercise its discretion judiciously and judicially.
Ruling on the bail application, the trial Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole granted the defendants bail in the sum of N250 million each and a surety in likes sum.
The surety, the court held must be an officer not below grade level 12 in either Federal, State or Local Government Area. Alternatively, Justice Kolawole said the surety to the defendant must be persons with national honours and that the sureties must deposed to an affidavit of means.
Part of the conditions for the bail of former governor Suswam and his co-defendants are that they should deposit their international passport with the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation of the court.
Justice Kolawole said the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court should verify to ensure that the conditions for the bail of the defendants are met before they are released, otherwise, they should be remanded at the Kuje prison.
The court slated October 10, 17, 19 and 20, 2017 for the trial of the defendants.