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JUST IN: Ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal rearraigned over contract fraud

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By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal has been re-arraigned before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama over his alleged involvement in grass cutting contract fraud to the tune of about N554million.

Lawal, who served as SGF under President Muhammadu Buhari, between August 27, 2015 and October 30, 2017, was re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 10-count charge brought against him and six others.

The other six are the ex-SGF’s younger brother, Hamidu Lawal; Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two firms – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd.

They all pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to them before a new judge, Justice Charles Agbaza, who is now taking over the case following the demise of the earlier trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, who died on August 4, 2020.

Justice Agbaza allowed the defendants to continue to enjoy the conditional bail earlier granted them by the former trial judge, and adjourned till January 20, 2021 for trial.

Late Justice Okeke had on February 13, 2019, granted the Defendants bail to the tune of N50m each, with one surety in like sum.

The court equally seized their international passports, even as it barred them from travelling out of the country without permission.

The ex-SGF was among other things, alleged to have connived with the other Defendants and illegally diverted 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.

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, 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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