The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Monday granted bail to former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam, and two others accused of fraud, with a bond of N250 million each.
The presiding judge, Gabriel Kolawole, also ordered the defendants to produce one surety each in like sum. The sureties are to provide recent passports of themselves, to be identified by the deputy chief registrar in charge of litigation, after which they will swear an affidavit confirming that they have met the bail conditions before the suspects can be allowed bail.
Mr. Suswam is facing a fresh 32-count charge brought against him by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
He is accused alongside two others: a former finance commissioner in the state, Omadachi Oklobia, and a former accountant of the Benue State government house, Janet Aluga.
The defendants are accused of diverting N9.9 billion from funds belonging to the Benue State Subsidy Reinvestment Programme, among others.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Earlier, the prosecution counsel, Aminu Alilu, prayed the court to transfer the case to Benue State, saying that the crisis in the state had subsided.
Responding however, the counsel representing the first and second defendant, Tawo Tawo, and the lawyer for the third defendant, Innocent Daagba, objected to the application, saying the situation in Benue State is still quite tense.
“Peace has not returned to Benue State. We are objecting to the application. If this matter is returned to Benue State, there will be a lot of chaos. We do not want a situation where innocent blood will be spilled. It is better that the matter be heard here,” said Mr. Tawo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Mr. Tawo further said the first defendant as a former governor of Benue State has his followers, while the incumbent governor also has his own followers, hence the possibility of the matter degenerating was high if the case is treated in Benue State.
Mr. Daagba agreed with the argument put forward by Mr. Tawo.
In his final submission, Mr. Alilu urged the court to demand an undertaking from the defendants’ counsel that the matter will not be considered for transfer to Benue State at a later time.