The EFCC on Monday re-arraigned a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and five others, in an FCT High Court, Jabi, and Abuja for alleged fraudulent N544 million grass-cutting contracts.
The trial, which began before Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, Maitama, and Abuja on Feb. 13, 2019, was transferred to Justice Charles Agbaza following Okeke’s death.
On Monday, EFCC Counsel, Mr. Offem Uket, told the court the defendants were re-arraigned on 10 counts charge bordering on fraud, diversion of over N544 million and criminal conspiracy.
Uket alleged that the second defendant, Hamidu, first defendant’s younger brother, is being tried alongside Suleiman Abubakar, third defendant, Apeh Monday and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd.
He alleged that the defendants fraudulently converted the proceeds from grass-cutting contracts worth over N544 million in which the first defendant as then SGF, awarded to the two companies, the fifth and sixth defendants, in which he had interests.
The prosecutor told the court that the offence contravened some Sections of the provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The defendants however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Mr. Akin Olujimi, SAN, the first defendant’s counsel prayed the court to allow his client continue to enjoy the bail conditions earlier granted by the late Justice Okeke.
He said that Lawal had throughout the trial faithfully obeyed and complied with the terms of the bail conditions.
Similarly, second defendant’s counsel, Mr. Idoko Ameh, SAN, argued that his client had not violated any part of the bail conditions previously granted him on Feb.13, 2019, and prayed the court to allow him continue on the same bail conditions.
” He made himself voluntarily available when he was informed about today’s sitting.
” In the circumstance, since there is no application for revocation of his bail, I urge My Lord for the second defendant to continue with the existing bail on the same terms it was granted”, Ameh said.
Napoleon Idenala, counsel to third defendant, Ocholi Okutepa, counsel to the fourth and sixth defendants and M.E Oru in the same breath, urged the court to allow their clients continue to enjoy bail, based on the existing terms and conditions as earlier granted by Okeke.
Uket however, did not oppose the applications.
The judge, Agbaza, granted the defence counsel’s prayer, saying records showed that the defendants had never violated their bail conditions.
Agbaza adjourned the case until Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, 2021, for hearing.
It was reported that Okeke had earlier on Feb. 13, 2019, granted the defendants bail in the sum of N50 million each with one surety each in like sum.
The court had held that such sureties must reside and own landed property within the court’s jurisdiction and must show evidence of three years tax payment to the court’s Registrar.
The Judge had also ruled that the international onal passports of the defendants should be deposited with the court.
Lawal was appointed as the SGF on Aug. 27, 2015, he was however suspended on April 19, 2017, and was officially relieved of all duties on Oct. 30, 2017 for alleged misappropriating of funds.