Alleged N544m Grass-cutting Fraud: Court discharges, acquits ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal

Babachir Lawal 

A Federal Capital Territory High Court has discharged and acquitted a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal and five others from the N544M contract fraud offence brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The court held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish a case against the ex-SGF and the co-defendants.

Ruling on a no-case submission made by Babachir Lawal, Justice Charles Agbaza held that the EFCC said that no ingredients of any offence was made out by the 11 witnesses that testified for the EFCC.

The judge held that EFCC did not establish that Babachir Lawal was either a member of the Presidential Initiative for North East that awarded the contract, or a member of the Ministerial Tenders Board that vetted and gave approval to the disputed contract.

Besides, Justice Agbaza held that EFCC also failed to link Babachir Lawal with the Bureau of Public Procurement BPP that issued a certificate of no objection to the contract before it was awarded.

The judge discharged and acquitted all the defendants in the 10-count criminal charges against them for want of evidence to link them with the purported offences.

Babachir Lawal alongside his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal; Suleiman Abubakar; Apeh Monday and two companies, were prosecuted by the EFCC before Justice Charles Agbaza.

They faced a 10-count charge bordering on fraud relating to the removal of evasive plant species to the tune of N544 million for which they pleaded not guilty.

The EFCC had on Monday, November 30, 2020 re-arraigned the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal before Justice Agbaza.

The case

The defendants were, among other things, alleged to have connived 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.

They were initially docked before the court on February 12, 2019, and subsequently re-arraigned on November 30, 2020, following the death of the previous judge that handled the matter, Justice Jude Okeke.

Late Justice Okeke had on February 13, 2019, granted the defendants bail to the tune of N50 million each, with one surety in like sum.

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

~Channels tv | Vanguard
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