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Alleged N9.79b fraud: Court rejects request for bench warrant on Suswam

•Judge warns ex-governor against absence A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday rejected a request to issue a bench warrant on former Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam.Justice Gabrial Kolawole, however, warned Suswam not to push the court to a state where it will compel him to attend court.The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) on March 27, filed a 32-count charge against Suswam and two others, accusing them of diverting N9,791,602,453.8, part of which was meant for police reform and the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).

The others are the Finance Commissioner during Suswam’s tenure, Omadachi Oklobia and former Accountant, Benue State Government House Administration, Mrs. Janet Aluga.They were to be arraigned on the new charge on April 11, but for the absence of Suswam, who was in the custody of the Department for State Services (DSS).The development prompted Justice Kolawole to order the DSS to produce him (Suswam), and adjourned to yesterday.The DSS released Suswam on May 7. He was in court on Wednesday when his lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN) withdrew the N10 billion rights’ enforcement suit he filed against the DSS, which Justice Kolawole struck out.But yesterday, Suswam was not in court. Oklobia and Mrs. Aluga were present. The ex-governor’s lawyer, Miss C.E Ogbuozor, said Suswam was admitted in hospital for hypertension-related ailment, which allegedly arose due to his prolonged stay in the DSS custody.She said: “After his release from the custody of the SSS (DSS), he met with us, his lawyers and explained to us that, owing to his detention, he has been unable to keep up with his medical checks or take his medication for a hypertensive medical condition, which he had.

“Having stayed in detention for over 70 days, he proceeded to see his doctors, who after due examination, advised that he be placed on bed rest and subject to his doctor’s observation.“We have also been issued with a report, which we have furnished the prosecution this morning. Out of respect for this court, the lead counsel, Mr. J.B Daudu (SAN), had to bring the first defendant to court yesterday (Wednesday) for his civil matter.“Today, we made effort to secure his attendance in court this morning, but unfortunately, his doctors would not oblige us.“In view of the foregoing, we sincerely crave the indulgence of the court for an adjournment to enable the first defendant to attend his trial to take his plea and to also prepare on the appropriate plea on each of the 32 counts, which we confirmed were duly served on him personally on May 8, 2017 following the orders of this court,” she said.Prosecuting lawyer Aminu Alilu said he was not served with any medical report from the defence.He said: “His (Suswam) presence in court yesterday showed that the condition is not as complicated as the counsel presented it.“We urge your lordship to invoking Section 131 of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act, by which my Lord is empowered to issue a warrant of arrest on the first defendant, and we so pray.“But, we are not opposed to the adjournment since the arraignment cannot go on today in the absence of the first defendant,” Alilu said.Lawyers to other defendants, F.R. Onoja (for Oklobia) and Innocent Da’agba (for Aluga) agreed with Miss Ogbuozor and prayed the court not to grant Alilu’s request for a bench warrant on Suswam.When a copy of Suswam’s medical report was shown to him, Alilu faulted the document, insisting that the situation requires that a warrant of arrest be issued on the defendant.Alilu said: “I just saw the medical report tendered by the first defendant. They said the report was from a private hospital and there ought to be an affidavit by the doctor, who signed it, informing this honourable court, on oath, the ailment of the first defendant stated on the medical report.”Justice Kolawole observed that Suswam attended court the previous day.The judge, however, faulted Alilu’s argument, noting that he did not support with any judicial authority his argument that a medical report issued by a private hospital, as against a government hospital, must be backed with a supporting affidavit deposed to by the doctor, who signed it.Justice Kolawole said Alilu’s argument would not prevent the court from accepting the medical report, dated May 10.The judge warned Suswam against being absent in subsequent proceedings, and adjourned till June 19 for arraignment.Source: The Nation

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