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N272m grass-cutting scandal: Ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal docked, remanded in custody

N272m grass-cutting scandal: Ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal docked, remanded in custody

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Godwin Tsa, Abuja

A high court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has ordered that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, be remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) till today when his bail application will be considered.

‎Lawal has been arraigned before the court alongside three other defendants, Hamidu David Lawal, Sulaiman Abubakar, and Apeh John Monday, as well as two firms that were allegedly involved in the grass-cutting scandal, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

The defendants who pleaded not guilty to the charges were docked by the EFCC for alleged complicity in a N272 million contract fraud.

Specifically, Lawal was accused of illegally diverting a contract the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE), awarded for the removal of grasses in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP camps, to his own company, pleaded not guilty to the 10-count criminal charge the EFCC preferred against him.

His bail application moved by his counsel was opposed by ‎prosecution counsel, Mr. M. S. Abubakar.

The anti-graft agency had argued that Lawal and his alleged accomplices, were unable to present sufficient materials that would enable the court to exercise its discretionary powers to release them on bail.

Prosecution counsel further opposed to the court allowing Lawal to go home on the basis of a mere oral bail application.

The former SGF had after his plea, begged the court to grant him bail on self recognizance, while undertaking to make himself available for his trial.

His lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi, informed the court that the anti-graft agency had earlier released his client on administrative bail.

He said the EFCC had even allowed his client to travel abroad for medical treatment while the investigation was ongoing.

“My lord, he could have run away when he was given his passport, but he went and came back. The 1st defendant is not one that will run away from his trial. Moreover, my lord, the prosecution has concluded its investigations; so the 1st defendant has no way to interfere with the investigation.

Olujinmi told the court that EFCC declined to accept service of Lawal’s written bail application.

Similarly, all the other defendants who also said they were previously on administrative bail, relied on the provisions of Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as well as Sections 158, 162 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and prayed the court to grant them bail, pending their trial.

However, in its counter, the EFCC maintained that the defendants, including the ex-SGF, did not run away from the country while on administrative bail, considering that no formal charge was pending against them before any court as at that time.

After he had listened to all the parties, Justice Okeke adjourned ruling on the defendants’ bail applications.

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Meantime, some of the counts in the charge marked CR/158/19, read: “That you Engineer Babachir, David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, Hamidu David Lawal being a Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, Sulaiman Abubakar being a staff of Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 7th of March, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did conspire to commit an offence to wit: fraudulent acquisition of property and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 12 of the same Act.

“That you Engineer Babachir David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, on or about the 7th of March, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly a private interest in the consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7, 009,515.96 (Seven Million, Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifteen Naira and Ninety Six Kobo only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.

“That you Engineer Babachir, David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a Director of 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 knowingly hold indirectly a private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation 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 and Two Kobo only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

“That you Engineer Babachir, David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 22nd August, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly a private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Eight Million, One Hundred and Thirty Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty Five Naira only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000”.

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