The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered a former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, and two of his former aides, to be remanded in Kuje Prisons, Abuja.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole made the remand order after the three defendants were arraigned on 32 counts of diversion of a total sum of N9.79bn meant for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme.
Although the judge granted each of the three defendants bail in the sum of N250m, among other conditions, he ordered that they should be remanded in prison pending when the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation of the Federal High Court, Abuja would inform the court that the bail conditions had been met.
The prosecution alleged in the 32 counts preferred against the three defendants that a total of N9,791,602,453.8 was meant for the SURE-P scheme and a small fraction of it for police reform.
The money was allegedly diverted by the defendants between 2012 and 2015 when Suswam was the governor of the state.
The SURE-P scheme was set up by the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration following a part removal of fuel subsidy in 2012.
Suswam and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty to all the 32 counts when read to them before Justice Kolawole.
Apart from Suswam, who was governor of Benue State between 2007 and 2015, others named as defendants are a former commissioner in Benue State, Mr. Omadachi Oklobia, and a former Accountant, Benue State Government House Administration, Mrs. Janet Aluga.
The case, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/48/2017, was filed by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation on March 27, 2015.
The prosecution accused the three defendants in the 32 counts of conspiracy, conversion of property, which is a cumulative sum of N9.79bn, allegedly derived directly from corruption; collaboration to conceal the property derived from corruption; obtaining by false pretences and accepting cash payments exceeding the amount authorised by the law.
The offences were said to be contrary to and punishable under various provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is, in a separate case of alleged diversion of over N3bn belonging to the Benue State Government, prosecuting Suswam and Oklobia before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
After the defendants pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges on Monday, counsel for Suswam and Oklobia, Mr. Tawo Tawo (SAN), informed Justice Kolawole that he had a bail application filed on behalf of his two clients before the court.
Tawo urged the court to adopt the ruling of Justice Mohammed granting bail to his two clients on November 10, 2015.
Aluga’s counsel, Mr. Innocent Daa’gba, also informed Justice Kolawole that he had a pending bail application filed on June 8, 2017 on behalf of his client.
Justice Kolawole fixed October 10, 17, 19, 20 at 11.45am on each of the days for trial.