Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has granted the 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 of the company and Apeh Monday, Managing Director, 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 counts 6, 9 and 10 of the charge.
The amendment, according to the commission is in accordance with Section 218 of the Administration 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 them to prepare their defence.
Accordingly, he adjourned until April 11 for the commencement of trial.
Earlier, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN ) counsel for 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.
Mr. D.N Idoko, counsel for the second defendant, Mr Napoleon Idenala and the third, Mr Ocholi Okutekpa for the fourth and sixth, Mr Mercel 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 in 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, a staff of the company, about March 7, 2016, in 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 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.