The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday accused a former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, of tampering with its fourth prosecution witness, Abubakar Umar.
The EFCC also sought to tender a document as a proof that the defendant actually reached out to Mr. Umar.
Mr. Suswam and his former commissioner for finance, Omadachi Oklobia, are being prosecuted by the EFCC over allegations of corruption and money laundering of about N3.1 billion.
Upon resuming trial yesterday, counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs, explained to the court that the first defendant and his cohorts reached had approached Mr. Umar in a bid to persuade him to change his earlier statement made at the commission.
When Mr. Jacobs asked the witness if he was coerced and pressurised by agents of the first defendant to change his statement, the witness responded in the affirmative.
Earlier, Mr. Umar during cross-examination by Jacobs, reiterated that he helped the former governor change about N3.1 billion to its dollar equivalent of $15.6 million at the then exchange rate between August and October 2014.
The EFCC had earlier declared him a ‘hostile witness’ based on a different evidence in court outside the statement he made to the EFCC.
The prosecution thereafter said he would like to tender it in evidence but counsel to the defendants however objected to the admissibility of the document.
One of Mr. Suswam’s lawyers, Joseph Daudu, while objecting to the admissibility of the document, said the original copy of the statement which was made in Hausa before it was translated to English ought to have been tendered before the court.
He further said that the statement was signed by Mr Umar’s in-law, one Yakubu Idris, who wrote and signed the statement and not by Mr. Umar, which according to him, is against the Evidence Act, which gives the maker of a statement opportunity to append his signature or initials on it.
Responding to this, Mr. Jacobs explained that there are ”two ways of contradicting a hostile witness” which, he said, is by contradicting him with other evidence rather than with his previous statement or through a statement made at other times and that it is not limited to statement made before or after his evidence in chief.
He added that Section 205 and 206 of the Evidence Act said the witness should give evidence that will not mislead the court.
“The purpose of tendering the very evidence is to show why the witness changed in his testimony. The first defendant was calling him and even asked him to go and see his lawyers”, he said.
Mr. Jacobs further explained that the grounds given by the defence counsel were not tenable and urged the court to admit the document.