former Benue governor, Gabriel Suswam

The Federal Government opened trial yesterday in the alleged N9.8 billion fraud case involving former Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam, a Commissioner of Finance in his administration, Omadachi Oklobia and a former Accountant, Benue State Government House Administration, Mrs. Janet Aluga.

They were arraigned earlier this year before a Federal High Court in Abuja on a 32-count in which they were accused of diverting about N9,791,602,453.8 meant for Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme in the state under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The prosecution opened its case yesterday by calling an ex-former Principal Secretary, Government House Administration, Benue State, Eugene Orvihi-Ivase, as its first witness.

The witness, led in evidence by prosecution lawyer, Aminu Alilu, told the court that someone else allegedly signed for the N450 million he had requested for in the name of his office, without his knowledge. He said the money was allegedly handed to Suswam.

Orvihi-Ivase said he raised a memo for the money to settle outstanding overhead costs for the Government House sometimes in 2015, but did not know the money had been disbursed by the Benue State’s Ministry of Finance until some weeks after he was re-deployed to the state’s Office of the Head of Service in June 2015.

The witness said he later found out that the 3rd defendant (Mrs. Aluga) signed for the money on behalf of the Principal Secretary of the Government House Administration, without his knowledge, as the occupant of the office.

The witness said Mrs. Aluga later told him that the money was withdrawn and handed over to Suswam.

Under cross-examination by Suswam’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN), admitted that the monthly allocation to the Government House, while he was in office was N48,585,000, as read out from his statement to the police by Daudu.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned till October 17 for the continuation of trial.

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