The trial Gabriel Suswan, a former governor of Benue State, and his finance commissioner, Omodachi Okolobia, before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed suffered a setback on Tuesday following the absence of the former governor who is being held in the custody of Department of State Services, DSS, for alleged criminal offence.
Mr. Suswam and his co-accused are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 9-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N3.1 billion.
When the case was called and counsel entered their appearance, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, counsel to EFCC, told the court that the first defendant, Mr. Suswam, was not in court, adding that his counsel would explain better the reasons for his absence.
Joseph Daudu gave reasons for his client’s absence in court saying, “he (Suswan) was invited by the DSS on February 24, 2017 and since that day he has been kept in detention without trial”.
He urged the court not to hold the reasons for his absence against him as it was not out of disrespect.
Justice Mohammed, after listening to the submissions of both counsel, held that the case being a criminal matter cannot go on without the defendant.
Consequently, he adjourned to May 9 for continuation of trial.
Further hearing on the matter was to resume today after about nine months break occasioned by the withdrawal of the trial judge (Justice Mohammed) following a publication by Sahara Reporters alleging compromise by the judge to give Mr. Suswan a “soft landing”.
The case file was, however, returned to him by the Chief Judge, Ibrahim Auta, after both the prosecuting and defence counsel expressed confidence in his ability to ensure justice in the case.