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N16.6bn Funds: Court Remands Suswam’s Ex-Aide, Others

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N16.6bn Funds: Court Remands Suswam’s Ex-Aide, Others

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday remanded in Suleja Prison, Niger State, a former aide to a former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, and two other officials for allegedly diverting the state’s N16.6bn.

The Attorney-General of the Federation’s office, which filed nine counts against the defendants, alleged that the three men diverted the sum of N16.6bn from Benue State’s bank accounts dedicated for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme and the Joint Allocation Account for Local Government funds.

The money was allegedly diverted by the defendants between June 27, 2011 and May 29, 2015, the day Suswam completed his second term in office.

The first defendant is a former special adviser to the ex-governor on Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Solomon Wombo, who doubled as the chairman, Joint Allocation Account for Local Government Committee in the state.

The second is a former Permanent Secretary of the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Asen Sambe, who served as the secretary to the Joint Account Allocation for Local Government Committee.

The third defendant is a former Director of Accounts and Finance in the state’s Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Secretary, Isiah Ipevnor.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered that the three men be remanded in Suleja prison pending when they would meet the bail conditions imposed on them shortly after they pleaded not guilty to the nine counts on Monday.

After the arraignment on Monday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Aminu Alilu, urged the court to remand the defendants in prison pending the hearing and determination of their bail applications and their trial.

But noting that the alleged offences were bailable, Justice Dimgba directed both the prosecution and the defence teams to meet, agree and propose the terms and conditions of the bail the court could impose on the defendants to save time.

After a short meeting outside the courtroom between the prosecution led by Alilu and the defence team led by Mr. Innocent Daa’gba, a set of bail conditions and terms were presented to the court.

Justice Dimgba accepted the conditions but made some alterations, including imposition of an additional surety instead of one for each of the defendants as suggested by the two parties.

The judge also imposed another condition that one of the two sureties to be presented by each of the defendants must have a house in Abuja worth the N100m bail sum to be imposed by the court.

Generally, the court granted bail to the defendants in the sum of N100m each with two sureties in like sum.

The judge ruled that one of the sureties should be a civil servant not lower than an assistant director in any state or federal ministry or other government establishments.

He ruled that the other surety could be a private businessman or woman who owned a property in the municipal area of Abuja with worth sufficient to cover the N100m bail sum.

The civil servant to be presented by each of the defendants must also present to the court their first letters of appointment, last promotion letters, and their staff identity cards or driver’s licences.

The court also directed that the defendants must deposit with the court their passports and other travelling documents.

Justice Dimgba turned down the defence lawyer’s appeal that the defendants be remanded in police custody pending when they would be able to fulfil the bail conditions, ordering that they should be remanded in prison.

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