A bureau de change operator, Abubakar Umar, who gave testimony against a former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, has told the court that he was pressured to change his statement.
Umar was the fourth prosecution of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in the ongoing money laundering trial of the former governor.
During the trial on Monday, Umar told Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja that he was questioned by Suswam’s lawyer on the statement he offered to the EFCC.
Suswam alongside his former Commissioner of Finance, Okolobia Okpanach, is facing prosecution on a nine-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds to the tune of N3.1bn.
Umar said some influential people have been calling on him, persuading him to change his statement against his former boss, Suswam.
Umar told the court how Suswam called and instructed him to meet his lawyer, J. P. Daudu (SAN), who will tell him what to do.
“He called and told me to go and see his lawyer, J P Daudu, and when I got there, Daudu asked why I wrote my statement the way I did. I told him to ask the person who sent me to him (Suswam). Daudu now told me to leave since it is like this”, he stated.
Umar also gave account of how his account was credited with N413m on August 8, 2014, adding that the first money that entered his account was a huge amount from Elixir Investment.
The witness confessed that it took him about eight to 10 days to change the money from naira to dollars and before then, there wasn’t much money in the account.
According to him, on September 12, 2014, another N637m was deposited into the account of Fantfash and after one or two hours, another N363m, was also deposited into the account.
Umar said he changed the money to dollars before taking it to the former governor, Suswam.
Umar also told the court that on October 17, 2014, Elixir Investment again paid into Fanffash Resources the sum of N1.68bn which he also used to buy dollars, adding that it took him a period of 12 days to buy the dollars and thereafter called Suswam to let him know that the dollars were ready before taking it to him.
According to the PW4, he was the only person that delivered the money to Suswam, adding that it was because he was the only one that the defendant gave instructions to send the money to Fantfash Resources, and exchange the money in dollars before bringing them to him.
The witness told the court that in all the transactions, he never visited Benue State in his life.
While being cross-examined by the defence counsel, C O Ogbozor, about his earlier statement that he took the money to the Government House in Benue State, Umar confirmed making such statement but added that he made the statement under pressure.
“Yes, I recall saying that but I was being pressured then. But no, I didn’t take it to Benue Government House. I took it to Government House but I never mentioned Benue or anywhere”, he stated.
Justice Abang adjourned the matter until February 4 and 5, 2020, for further cross-examination and continuation of trial.