Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has granted a request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to amend the 10-count charge against former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and three others.
Specifically, the former SGF was arraigned on February 12, alongside Hamidu Lawal, a director in his company, Sulaiman Abubakar, a staff in the company and Apeh Monday, managing director of Josmon Technologies Limited and Rholavision Engineering Limited; over alleged N544 million fraud.
Justice Jude Okeke, granted the request for the amendment of the charge, following an application by EFCC counsel, Mr Ufom Uket to add the company, Josmon Technologies Limited, in count 6, 9 and 10 of the charge.
The amendment, according to the Commission, is in accordance with section 218 of the Administation of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
The court further granted the prayers of the defendants’ counsel and ordered that the defendants continue in the existing bail conditions.
Justice Okeke said in view of the effect of the amendment on the part of counsel to the defendants, it was proper to grant an adjournment to enable prepare their defence.
Accordingly, he adjourned until April 11, for commencement of trial.
Earlier, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN ), counsel for Lawal, said he was not opposing 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.
Counsels for Mr. Napoleon Idenala, the second defendant, Mr. D.N Idoko, and the third defendant, abd Mr Ocholi Okutekpa, for the fourth and sixth, Mr Mercel Oru, for fifth defemdant, aligned with Olujimi.
All the defendants’s counsels 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 contracts 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 Lawal, being the SGF and Hamidu Lawal, director of Rholavision Engineering Limited and Abubakar, his staff, at about March 7, 2016, in Abuja, conspired to commit the offences.
EFCC said the defendants fraudulently acquired a property, contrary to section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
It also alleged that 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).
The anti-financial crime agency further alleged that on March 4, and August 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.