Grass-Cutting Scandal: Court Grants Bail To Ex-SGF Babachir Lawal, Adjourns Trial to Mar 18

Mr. Babachir Lawal.

A Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court sitting in Maitama has granted bail to the former Secretary-General of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and two others.

The court on Wednesday granted them bail in the sum of N50m each with one surety who must be residents within the jurisdiction of the court; they must possess titles to lands within the jurisdiction of the court, show evidence of payment of tax for the past three years.

The court further noted that each of the defendants is to deposit their international passport with the court pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions and are to remain in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The court also adjourned the fraud case involving Lawal, along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd, to March 18, 2019 for “commencement of trial”.

They are facing a 10-count charge bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million and were first arraigned on February 12, 2019 before Justice Jude Okeke, and pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

One of the charges reads: “That you, Hamidu David Lawal, being a Director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd; Suleiman Abubakar, being a staff of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, Apeh Monday John, being the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Ltd and 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 abet the holding indirectly of a private interest by Engineer Babachir David Lawal in the award of contract to Josmon Technologies Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation through the Presidential Initiative for North East, PINE 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, Two Kobo only) which Rholavision Engineering Ltd executed and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 26 (1)(c) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000 and punishable under section 12 of the same Act.”

The trial judge had fixed February 13, 2019 to rule on the bail applications moved by Akin Olujimi, SAN, counsel for Babachir; Sunday Ameh, SAN, counsel for the second defendant; Napoleon Idenala, counsel for the third defendant, and Ocholi Okutepa, counsel for the fourth defendant.

Prosecuting counsel, M.S. Abubakar, had opposed the bail applications, and urged Justice Okeke to “refuse the bail applications and order that the matter proceed without delay in the spirit of Section 19(2)(b) of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 and Section 397 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015”.

Ruling on the bail applications, Justice Okeke granted them bail in the sum of N50 million, with one surety in like sum. The sureties must be resident within the court’s jurisdiction, and they must be a holder of landed properties within the jurisdiction of the court, with evidence of tax payments for the past three years. They are also to deposit their international passports with the court.

In granting them bail, the trial judge held that: “The prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence in line with Section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 not to grant bail.

“Court can grant bail except in situations where the defendants are likely to jump bail, interfere with investigation or attempt to conceal evidence.

“The ACJA 2015 has made peculiar and extensive provisions regarding bail, and the court is guided by the provision which states that a defendant shall be entitled to bail.”

Justice Okeke, however, added that “the prosecution has the right to object to the bail, but the bail application succeeds”.

They are to be remanded in EFCC custody pending the fulfilment of their bail conditions.

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