An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s star witness, on Monday, said he received several telephone calls from different people asking him to change the statement he made with the anti-graft agency against Gabriel Suswam, a former Governor of Benue State.
Mr Abubakar Umar, an Abuja-based Bureau De Change (BDC) Operator, stated this while giving his evidence-in-chief at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Mr Suswam and the then Commissioner for Finance in his administration, Omadachi Oklobia, are being prosecuted before the court on N3.1 billion money laundering charges.
They were accused by the EFCC of diverting the money which was said to be part of the proceeds of the sale of some shares of Benue in a company.
Mr Suswam, a senator, is presently representing Benue North-East Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
At the resumed trial on Monday, the EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, asked Mr Umar, who is the 4th prosecution witness (PW4) in the case, to tell the court what he meant by the earlier oral evidence in the previous proceeding that he was receiving phone calls from people to change his statement.
The witness, who spoke through an interpreter, said: “Yes, that is how it is. Many people have been calling me so that I will change my statement on my Master, Gabriel Suswam.
Mr Jacobs also asked him, “What is your discussion with Suswam your Master?”
Mr Umar responded thus: “He (Gabriel Suswam) called me and said that I should go to his lawyer, Joseph B. Daudu.
“When I reached J.B. Daudu, he asked me why I wrote a statement like this.
“I now tell him to ask the person that sent me to him, Gabriel Suwam. He said I should go since it is like this.”
The PW4 restated that he told the court that N413 million was the first amount that entered his Zenith Bank account, Fanffash Resources, from Elixir Investment.
“I was not having much money in my account before the money came in and it takes me eight to 10 days to change the money into dollars before handling it to Suswam.
“On Sept 12, 2014, N637 million entered Fanffash Resource account. After one to two hours, N363 million entered again on the same day,” he said.
The witness said he later bought dollars with the money and called the former governor before taking the money to him.
“On the 13th of October 2014, the first money that entered was N630 million. There is another money that entered Fanffash Resources account which is N8, 018. 51k,” he said.
Mr Umar told the court that on October 23, 2014, he bought dollars with the money.
“On October 17, 2014, another money entered into Fanffash Resources account from Elixir Investment N1. 6 million. I bought dollars with the money and it took me about 12 days to buy the dollars,” he remarked.
The BDC operator said he usually called Mr Suswam to tell him that the money was ready before taking the money to him.
He also told the court that the reason he usually delivered the money to Mr Suswam alone and without any other person present was because it was the former governor that directed that the money be paid into his account and instructed him to bring the money.
When the prosecution lawyer asked him if he had ever been to Makurdi in Benue State, Mr Umar said “No, I don’t know Makurdi. No, I don’t know Government House, Makurdi. I have never been to Makurdi.”
The judge, Okon Abang, however, stepped down the matter for 10 minutes at the instance of Paul Erokoro, SAN, 2nd defendant’s lawyer, to enable the defence counsel discuss.
When the court resumed, Chinelo Ogbozor, counsel to Mr Suswam, tendered the previous proceeding document from Justice Ahmed Mohammed before Mr Abang.
She asked Mr Umar if he remembered giving evidence before Justice Mohammed.
“Yes, I remember giving evidence in Justice Mohammed’s court,” he said.
The witness said though he remembered giving evidence that he took the money to Government House, “I said Government House but I didn’t say Benue State.”
The interpreter then read a portion of the document considered to be controversial to the witness
The interpreter then read the portion of the document to the witness after he agreed that it is the proceeding from AR Mohammed’s court.
Part of the statement read: “…. In my statement to the EFCC, I stated that I handed over all the dollars converted to Government House in Benue.”
Mr Umar, in reaction, said: “That is my statement but I did not mention Benue State.”
Mr Abang, therefore, asked the witnessed: “Is it your statement with the EFCC or Hon Justice Mohammed that you said you did not mention Benue State?”
He responded thus: “The one with Justice A.R. Mohammed.”
Mr Abang, after admitting the photocopy of certified true copy of previous proceeding document before Mr Mohammad in evidence and marked as Exhibit E65, adjourned the matter until February 4 and 5 for further cross examination, re-examination of PW4 and continuation of trial.