Abubakar Umar, the fourth prosecution witness, PW4, in the ongoing trial of Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of Benue State, on February 4, 2020, told Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court, Abuja, that some persons from the side of Suswam pressured and threatened to kill him and his family if he failed to lie while testifying before Justice A.R. Mohammed of a Federal High Court.
It will be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was previously prosecuting Suswam, now a Senator and his former Commissioner of Finance, Okolobia Okpanach before Justice Mohammed for allegedly diverting proceeds from the sale of shares owned by the Benue State government.
In the course of the trial, Umar, while being examined by counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, had began to give contradictory evidence different from what he had stated in his statement, and testimonies he had made earlier in court.
Umar had previously told Justice Mohammed that he handed over $15.8 million to Suswam at his residence in Maitama, Abuja, but later changed his testimony that he only took the money to the Government House in Benue, and that he never knew if the money was given to Suswam. The action had prompted Jacobs to inform the court of his intention to declare him a “hostile witness”.
However, Justice Mohammed was to later withdraw from the case following which the case was transferred to Justice Abang.
At the resumed hearing, today, Umar, who had at the sitting on February 3, 2020 told the court that he was pressured to change his statement in court, further stressed that “Suswam’s people” literally threatened him, thus making his scared.
Under cross-examination by counsel for the defence, Chinelo Ogbozor, he insisted that: “Like I said, before Justice Mohammed, I took the dollars after it was converted, to Government House, but I did not mention Benue”.
While further cross-examining him, Ogbozor, reminded him that he was declared by the prosecution as a “hostile witness” while the trial was at the courtroom of Justice Mohammed.
Responding, Umar said: “On that day, [before] I entered the witness stand, people from Gabriel Suswam’s side disturbed me with calls, they said I have a family, if I say the truth, I know I have a family. I felt scared for my family and that’s why I said I took the money to Government House”.
When asked if he lied before Justice Mohammed, the witness insisted that he was under pressure, and “I just said it to get relief before Justice Mohammed that I took money to Government House”.
He was further queried on his previous testimony whether it was true or not, but he insisted that “it was Suswam’s people that said I should say I took the money to Government House”.
The witness also told the court that he gave his account number to a fair lady in Suswam’s residence, but he doesn’t know her or her name. He however, added that every time a deposit was made into his account, she usually called him, but that he doesn’t know the phone number.
He was asked how much he was given to change his statement.
In response, he said no one gave him money and that he never knew them.
“I informed Suswam that his people were calling me,” he said, adding that, “It was Suswam’s people that made me to lie before Justice Mohammed”.
The case has been adjourned to February 5, 2020 for further cross-examination and continuation of trial.
One of the charges against Suswam reads: “That you Gabriel Torwua Suswam and Omodachi Okolobia while being Benue State governor and Commissioner of finance of Benue State respectively between 8th August and 30th October, 2014 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court took possession of the sum of $15,800,000 (Fifteen million, eight hundred thousand dollars) from Abubaker Umar of Fanffash Resources (Worldwide Limited ) a bureau de change dealer, which sum you knew to be the proceed of unlawful activity to wit; theft of the sum of N3,111,008,018.51 (Three Billion, One Hundred and Eleven Million, Eight Thousand and Eighteen Naira Fifty One Kobo) which formed part of the sum of N9,411,708,009.51 (Nine Billion, Four Hundred and Eleven Million, Seven Hundred and Eight Thousand, Nine Naira, Fifty One Kobo) realised from the sale of shares owned by Benue State Government and Benue Investment and Property Company Limited and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) act , 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under section 15 (3) of the same act.”