A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has pleaded not guilty to the 10-count charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Mr Lawal and five others on Tuesday at an Abuja High Court pleaded not guilty of fraudulent diversion of funds meant for the clearing of evasive plants on the North East.
Court proceedings are still ongoing.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Hamidu David Lawal, being a Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, Suleiman Abubakar, being a staff of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, Apeh Monday John, being the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Ltd and Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 4th of March, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did abet the holding indirectly of a private interest by Engineer Babachir David Lawal in the award of contract to Josmon Technologies Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation through the Presidential Initiative for North West, PINE to the tune of N272,524,356.02 (Two Hundred and Seventy Two Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand, Three Hundred and Fifty Six Naira, Two Kobo only) which Rholavision Engineering Ltd executed and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 26 (1)(c) of the Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Act 2000 and punishable under section 12 of the same Act.”
They all pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
Prosecuting counsel, M.S. Abubakar, thereafter, asked for the “shortest date” for commencement of trial.
Defence counsel, Akin Olujimi, SAN, while arguing his bail application, told the court that “in anticipation of arraignment, the defence filed application dated February 7, 2019 seeking the order of the court to grant bail on liberal terms”.
Olujimi said: “He never jumped bail since April 13, 2018 when he was released by the EFCC on administrative bail, and has been reporting to the EFCC based on the conditions given to him.
“He never breached his bail conditions, even when he was given his international passport to travel for medical check-up.
“The defendant will not run away and has no way of jeopardising investigation since it has been concluded.
“I therefore, urge your lordship to grant him bail on self-recognizance or on liberal terms.”
Sunday Ameh, SAN, counsel for the second defendant, while citing Section 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, also prayed the Court to grant his client bail on liberal terms pending the determination of the trial.
Counsel for the third and fourth defendants, Napoleon Idenala and Ocholi Okutepa, while urging the court to exercise its discretion, prayed that their clients be granted bail on liberal terms.
Responding, Abubakar urged Justice Okeke to “refuse the bail applications and order that the matter proceed without delay in the spirit of Section 19(2)(b) of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 and Section 397 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015”.
After listening to the arguments, Justice Okeke, adjourned the matter to Wednesday, February 13, 2019 for “ruling on bail application”, and ordered that the defendants be remanded in the custody of the EFCC.