A statement by the embattled former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, has denied a SaharaReporters investigation which found that he bribed Federal High Court Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed. Mr. Mohammed is the judge presiding over Mr. Suswam’s corruption trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Mr. Suswam with stealing more than 3.1 billion naira from his time as governor.
In a statement distributed by Mr. Suswam he said “its clear to me that Sahara Reporters is doing the bidding of my political foes, who would stop at nothing to find me guilty even if the evidence at their disposal does not warrant my conviction.”
Mr. Suswam even stated that “it is offensive, criminal, and unethical for Sahara Reporters to have claimed to speak to me during which I pleaded that the judge be ‘left out of the matter’ in the none-existent [sic] interview. Sahara Reporters has never interviewed me and I never gave an interview to the news medium or speak the words attributed to me in the report under reference.”
SaharaReporters stands by the findings, content, and facts of its original investigation.
The full text of Mr. Suswam’s statement can be read below:
PRESS STATEMENT. 30th May, 2016.
MISCHIEF AND ATTEMPT TO BLACKMAIL ME BY SAHARA REPORTERS IN ORDER TO SUBVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE IN MY ON- GOING TRIAL AT THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT, ABUJA
Since last week, Sahara Reporters, an online news medium has been out on a hatchet job to pitch me against the judiciary and law enforcement agencies especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) with regards my on- going trial at the Federal High Court Abuja. In a report on its website which was widely shared to other online websites, blogs and List Serves, Sahara Reporters wrote of a phantom attempt by me to bribe the presiding Judge of the Federal High Court before whom I have been standing trial in order to get a "a soft landing". The online medium even alleged that I had not only met with the trial Judge, but had indirectly bribed him by "picking the medical bills of a relative" last year to secure "lenient bail conditions". According to the report, I further promised to bribe the Judge with various sums in local and foreign currencies to get “soft landing". The report also alleged that a certain staff of the Federal High Court was the link between me and the Honourable Justice. Furthermore, Sahara Reporters claimed to be in possession of text messages exchanged between me and the Judge in which there were discussions about how the Judge would be bribed to give me "soft landing" in the trial and that the judge gave out what the Defense Counsel should tell the Prosecution lawyers to enable him deliver a "favorable ruling" to me.
I want to state in very unmistakable terms that the entire report published lavishly by Sahara Reporters is completely false, highly malicious, wicked and lacking in the least measure of facts and truth. It is a fabrication from the professional indiscretion and warped imagination of the Sahara Reporters news writers. Typical of the historically reckless tradition of Sahara Reporters, this report is not only highly mischievous but further reconfirms the long- held opinion that Sahara Reporters is a willing tool in the hands of desperate politicians with intent to ridicule their real or perceived foes. For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to state with all the power of truth at my disposal that I have never met the Judge in question outside the Court Room neither do I have his telephone contact with which to send the alleged text messages. So for anybody to insinuate or directly allege that I am engaged in any form of negotiation with the judge to secure the so called " soft landing" is grossly untrue as such a situation does not exist and will never exist. I wish to use this medium to tell Nigerians that I have never tried in any way directly or indirectly to meet the said Honourable Judge or any other judicial officer in all my life in public service to secure a favorable decision and I have no intention to do so. As a Lawyer, I am aware of the consequences of such an action and will never venture into such an indecent, criminal and immoral act. Perhaps, it is important to state here that since my trial commenced at the Federal High Court last year, I have cooperated in all circumstances with the prosecution to ensure the trial proceeded speedily with the firm belief that justice will be done at the end of the day.
It's clear to me that Sahara Reporters is doing the bidding of my political foes, who would stop at nothing to find me guilty even if the evidence at their disposal does not warrant my conviction. The resort to sponsorship of mischievous reports against me in the media will not and cannot burry the truth that I am being vilified for political reasons by the forces who wish to render me irrelevant in the politics of Benue state. I want to assure my family members, political associates, members of the legal profession and security agencies that I am not in any way associated with the spurious allegations raised by Sahara Reporters whose main objective is to undermine the cause of justice by tarnishing my reputation and of course the image of the judge handling the case in which I am the defendant.
It is offensive, criminal and unethical for Sahara Reporters to have claimed to speak to me during which I pleaded that the Judge be "left out of the matter" in the none-existent interview. Sahara Reporters has never interviewed me and I never gave any interview to the news medium or speak the words attributed to me in the report under reference.
It is necessary to point out that although democracy thrives on the basis of freedom of expression, this fundamental freedom should not be used at the detriment of others as Sahara Reporters has done in this instance.
I wholly dissociate myself from the allegations published in the said report and hereby reiterate my confidence in the judiciary and undertake to continue to cooperate with the Court to ensure a speedy conclusion of my trial so that justice will be done.
Rt Hon. Gabriel T. Suswam, Ph.D, CON Former Governor of Benue State.