Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Alleged N544m grass-cutting scandal: Court discharges ex-SGF, others

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Ibrahim Ramalan
Ibrahim Ramalan
Ibrahim Ramalan is a graduate of Mass Communications from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. With nearly a decade-long, active journalism practice, Mr Ramalan has been able to rise from a cub reporter to the exalted position of an editor; first as Arts Editor with the Blueprint Newspapers before resigning in 2019; second and presently as an Associate Editor of the Daily Nigerian online newspaper. He can be reached via [email protected], or www.facebook.com/ibrahim.ramalana, or @McRamalan on Twitter.
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An Abuja High Court on Friday discharged a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and five others of N544 million for grass-cutting fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC charged Mr Lawal alongside his younger brother, Hamidu, Suleiman Abubakar; Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited with 10 counts of misappropriation on Nov. 30, 2020.

Justice Charlies Abgaza ruling in a no-case- submission filed by the defendants ruled that EFCC failed to establish prima facie case against the co-defendants.

Mr Agbaza held that no ingredients of any offence was made out by the 11 witnesses that testified for the EFCC.

He further held that EFCC did not establish that Babachir Lawal was either a member of the Presidential Initiative for North East PINE that awarded the contract or a member of the Ministerial Tenders Board that vetted and gave approval to the disputed contract.

The judge held that EFCC also failed to link Babachir Lawal with the Bureau of Public Procurement BPP that issued a certificate of no objection to the contract before it was awarded.

Mr Agbaza, therefore, discharged all the defendants of the 10-count charges against them for want of evidence to link them with the purported offence.

They had pleaded not guilty to the charges when they first appeared before the late Justice Jude Okeke on Feb. 13, 2019.

The EFCC alleged that Mr Lawal, while he was the SGF, converted and awarded cumulative proceeds of grass-cutting contracts worth over N544 million to companies he had interests in.

They also pleaded not guilty to the allegations against them when they were re-arriagned before Justice Agbaza.


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