The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, has returned the corruption case file of the immediate past governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, to Justice A.R. Mohammed and ordered him to continue presiding over the case.
The ex-governor is standing trial alongside his Commissioner of Finance, Okolobia Okpanachi, for nine-count charge bordering on conspiracy, abuse of office and diversion of state funds to the tune of N3.1billion.
The charge was proffered against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
An online news medium, SaharaReporters, had published a report on May 27, 2016 alleging that Justice Mohammed “entered into a financial agreement” with Mr. Suswam to give the former governor “a soft landing”.
Following reactions that trailed the report in the social media, the judge on June 6, 2016 handed off the case, and informed the court of his decision to return the case file to the Chief Judge for reassignment.
Despite persuasive arguments from the prosecution, led by Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Mr. and Suswam’s counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), that the said report be discountenanced, the trial judge insisted that, “justice or the fairness of it is not as the judge, prosecution or defence sees it”.
Mr. Jacobs urged the court to “take cognisance of all the witnesses the prosecution had called so far, which would cost the state resources to recall for the trial” while Mr. Daudu too expressed confidence in the trial judge.
In returning the case file, Justice Auta noted that “there were no complaints or allegations of bias against the judge, either from the prosecution or the defence”, and so Justice Mohammed should continue with the case where he stopped.
Their trial has been fixed for October 4, 2016.