Wednesday, May 10, 2017 6:26 pm
Four persons – Mark Gbaa, Ezekiel Azi, Bulus Ashom and Nuhu Atangs – were on Wednesday jailed one year each, for attempting to defraud former Benue governor Gabriel Suswam.
The quartet, arraigned in 2013, faced a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy, attempt to defraud, impersonation, forgery and mischief.
They were alleged to have posed as operatives of EFCC with an intent to defraud the then governor of the sum of 3 million dollars, using false and forged documents.
During the trial, the prosecution called six witnesses including Suswam, while the accused testified in their own defense and called no witnesses.
The convicts were alleged to have contacted Suswam’s orderly and claimed to be EFCC officers investigating local government accounts in Benue.
They were also said to have asked the orderly to inform Suswam about a certain petition against the Commissioner for Finance and the Adviser on Local Government Affairs.
Suswam eventually spoke with the first accused person, Gbaa, who claimed that he could stop the petition against him.
At that point, the former governor called the EFCC headquarters to confirm the truth about the petition, but was told that there was no such petition.
He was, however, advised to play along with the suspected fraudsters, so he requested a meeting with them at the Benue Government House.
On Feb. 21, 2013, the third and fourth accused persons came to Government House carrying a brown envelope containing a white piece of paper on which was written $3,000,000, which the governor was asked to pay so that the case would be dropped.
State Security Service officers, who were on standby at that point, promptly arrested them.
The prosecution said that the offences contravened Section 8((a) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act, 2006.
The accused were said to have confessed to the crime during police investigation, but pleaded not guilty before the court, saying that the confessional statements were made under duress.
Mr Izang Aware, their counsel, objected to the admissibility of their statements in evidence, arguing that his clients were forced to make the statements without being warned that it would work against them.
However, the prosecution counsel, Mr M. E. Eimonye, urged the court to admit the statements in evidence, submitting that it was not relevant that an accused person be warned before he made any statement.
The presiding judge, Justice Elizabeth Kpojime, agreed with the prosecution counsel and admitted their statements in evidence.
At the conclusion of the trial on Wednesday, they were found guilty and accordingly sentenced to one year imprisonment without option of fine.