Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Alleged N544m fraud: EFCC amends charges against ex-SGF Lawal, others


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, or @McRamalan on Twitter.
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An FCT High Court in Maitama, on Monday, granted leave to the EFCC to amend the charge in the trial of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal and three others, over alleged N544 fraud.

The former SGF was arraigned on February 12 alongside Hamidu Lawal, a director in his company, Sulaiman Abubakar, staff in the company and Apeh Monday, managing director Josmon Technologies Limited and Rholavision Engineering Limited.

The Judge, Justice Jude Okeke, granted the leave, following an application by EFCC counsel, Mr Ufom Uket to add the company, Josmon Technologies Limited., in count 6, 9 and 10.

Justice Okeke granted the leave for EFCC to amend charge and in accordance with section 218 of ACJA, in addition, he must file a fresh charge.

Okeke also granted the prayers of the defendants’ counsel and ordered that the defendants continue in the existing bail conditions.

In addition, he said since the defendants’ counsel complained of the effect of prosecution ‘s amended charge on their preparation he would grant an adjournment.

Mr Okeke adjourned until April 11 for the commencement of trial.

Earlier, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN) counsel for Mr Lawal, said he was not opposed to the application.

He said the prosecution ought to have filed a fresh charge, he further said that the amendment would affect the day’s commencement of trial.

D.N Idoko, counsel for the second defendant, Napoleon Idenala and the third, Ocholi Okutekpa for the fourth and, Marcel Oru for fifth all aligned with Olujimi.

All the defendants’ counsel also prayed the court to allow the defendants to continue in the existing bail condition after they took their plea on the amended charge.

The EFCC dragged them to court on a 10-count charge bordering on conspiracy and unlawful award of a contract to companies Lawal has interest at the sum of N544 million.

Lawal was accused of benefiting illegally from the approval of N544,119,925.36 for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.

The EFCC alleged that Babachir Lawal being the SGF and Hamidu Lawal, director of Rholavision Engineering Limited and Abubakar, staff about March 7, 2016 at Abuja conspired to commit the offences.

EFCC said the defendants fraudulently acquired property, contrary to Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

It also alleged that Babachir Lawal knowingly held indirectly a private interest in the consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7 million and N6.4 million.

EFCC claimed that it was done through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).

It further alleged that on March 4, and Aug. 22, 2016 contract for removing evasive grass worth N272.5 million and N258.1 million respectively were awarded to Josmon technologies but executed by Rholavision.

The offences are contrary to Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

They all pleaded not guilty to the allegations against them.


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